CANADA ADOPTS SHIPPING REFORM
The shipping reform act of Canada, which includes a reform of the Shipping Conferences Exemption Act, has received royal assent and will become effective on Jan. 30.
The Shipping Conferences Exemption Act was amended mainly to keep Canada’s conference legislation in balance with the legislation of its major trading partners, said a spokesman for Transport Canada, the country’s department of transportation.
Under the revised law, Canadian shippers and carriers will be allowed to sign one-on-one confidential service contracts, much like their counterparts in the United States since the enactment of the Ocean Shipping Reform Act of 1998.
Canadian carrier/shipper agreements have been based on conference contracts that were disclosed to other conference carriers, or on individual actions on conference rates.
Walter Mueller, general secretary of the Canadian Shippers’ Council, said Canadian shippers welcomed the change, particularly the ability to have one-on-one confidential contracts. The council has lobbied for their introduction under the law since the reform was considered three years ago.
However, the Canadian Shippers’ Council was unable to convince the government and parliament of the need to have a “sunset clause” to limit the duration of the conference antitrust exemption. Carriers opposed such a sunset clause and killed a draft law that contained such a provision.
The shippers’ organization also wanted to restrict the definition of a conference to exclude agreements such as stabilization agreements, and it called for a dispute resolution mechanism, but was not successful in either attempt.
Mueller said the ability to have individual confidential contracts was “an absolute minimum” for Canadian shippers. “It puts us on an equal footing with shippers in the U.S.,” he said.
The Canada/North Europe conference has reportedly already introduced individual confidential contracts.