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As of May, regulations that require steamship lines to disclose the terms of their contracts with import/export customers are history, thanks to the Ocean Shipping Reform Act. The change may seem subtle, but it’s expected to have a big impact on the industry. Small shippers, who used to compete by matching the deals offered by their larger competitors, no longer have access to that information; and many small exporters and importers, who use the information to demand that shippers treat them no differently from their larger competitors, may experience increases in prices.

The upshot: A flurry of mergers and alliances as shipping lines, importers/exporters and industry intermediaries try to become big enough to compete. And increased competition should force down prices in the short term.

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