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Reviewing competition exemptions for liner shipping

Liner shipping companies benefit from an exemption from EU competition law that makes it easier for them to collaborate. This exemption, called the Consortia Block Exemption Regulation, will expire on 25 April 2020. The European Commission has therefore launched a process to review the impact and relevance of this regulation. This should provide evidence for determining whether it should be left to expire or be prolonged, and if so, under which conditions.

To consider the issue, the ITF brought together stakeholders from the containerised maritime supply chain for a Stakeholder Meeting, on 8 February 2019 in Paris, France (photo). The stakeholders included representatives from the shipping sector, shippers, ports, terminals, freight forwarders, port service providers and inland waterway transport. Country representatives from the US, France, Italy, Denmark and Israel also participated in the meeting, as well as selected experts. The meeting provided an opportunity for exchange to support the European Commission in carrying out its review. The European Commission participated with a delegation of eight representatives, including Henrik Mørch, Director at DG Competition of the European Commission.

The shipping sector wants to keep the exemption as is. All other stakeholders have proposed changes to it. Most of these stakeholders did not rule out repeal if such changes were not enacted. An important concern shared by all stakeholders - except the shipping representatives - is a lack of transparent data on consortia, their performance and their effects. Much of the discussion focused on possible ways to have more data available on the sector. On the one hand, this could be needed for the regulator to effectively monitor consortia, for example, data provided directly by the lines. On the other hand, stakeholders also expressed interest in publicly available data on performance and aspects that directly impact their activities. The European Commission collects much less information on consortia than the US, but does not seem intent to collect more data on a regular basis. An important concern for certain countries present at the meeting is the asymmetric relation between carriers and ports that policies would need to address.

Go to presentation 'Trends in Container Shipping", Olaf Merk (ITF)

Go to photos from the event

Get the ITF report The Impact of Alliances in Container Shipping

Get the Working Document Container Shipping in Europe: Data for the Evaluation of the EU Consortia Block Exemption Regulation