Shipping Act of 1916 Centennial—Legislation Established Forerunner of FMC - Federal Maritime Commission
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Shipping Act of 1916 Centennial—Legislation Established Forerunner of FMC

September 7, 2016

Today marks the 100th anniversary of President Woodrow Wilson signing the Shipping Act of 1916 into law, legislation that helped prepare the United States for its entrance into World War One and created the legacy agency that has become the Federal Maritime Commission.

The bill was sponsored by Representative Joshua Alexander of Missouri, who was the Chairman of the House Committee on Merchant Marine and Fisheries. His measure had two key goals: to regulate the foreign and domestic shipping trades; and to reinvigorate the U.S. Merchant Marine. The United States Shipping Board was created via the law to accomplish these missions.

Representative Alexander’s original priority was to address commercial and competition issues related to shipping, but in 1916, World War One raged and the United States began making preparations for potentially becoming a combatant. The work of the Shipping Board very quickly became consumed with building the vessels and training the crews that would man these ships as they transported troops and supplies to Europe when America entered the war in 1917.

The U.S. Shipping Board existed from 1916 until 1933 when it was replaced by the U.S Shipping Board Bureau within the Department of Commerce. In 1936, the U.S. Maritime Commission was established and it lasted until 1950 when it was superseded by the Federal Maritime Board. In 1961, the Federal Maritime Commission was established as an independent regulatory and enforcement agency.

“While the Federal Maritime Commission was established in 1961, we are pleased to be able to trace our heritage back to 1916,” stated Mario Cordero, the Chairman of the Federal Maritime Commission. “Guaranteeing a competitive shipping marketplace has been a core part of what the Commission has done throughout its history, whether as the Shipping Board or one of the successor organizations. We are proud of this legacy and work hard to honor the intent of those Members of Congress who saw a need to bring oversight to this industry a century-ago.”