EC, EFTA COMPETITION INVESTIGATORS RAID OFFICES OF TANKER COMPANIES
Officials of the European Commission and the European Free Trade Area have raided the offices of several operators of deep-sea maritime tanker services in Europe to search for evidence of cartel practices.
Norway’s Odfjell group and London-based Stolt-Nielsen S.A. confirmed that they have been targeted by the EC investigation. The names of the other tanker operators whose offices were inspected has not been made public.
“The purpose of these inspections is to ascertain whether there is evidence of a cartel agreement and related illegal practices for deep-sea maritime tanker services,” the EC said.
The Surveillance Authority of the European Free Trade Area, responsible for competition issues in Iceland, Liechtenstein and Norway, said that it carried out “unannounced inspections” at the premises of a number of operators of deep-sea maritime tanker services in Bergen, Norway.
Officials of the Surveillance Authority of the European Free Trade Area and the European Commission of the European Union were assisted by national officials in these raids. Norway is a member of the European Free Trade Area, but not of the European Union.
“Surprise inspections are a preliminary step in investigations into suspected cartels,” the EC said. The fact that the EC carries out such inspections does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself, the Brussels-based competition watchdog added.
The inspections may be the start of drawn-out competition procedures, which commonly take several years.
Odfjell confirmed that it is subject to an investigation by the EC to ascertain whether the company has been involved in unlawful market sharing. “We are cooperating with the EU Commission on this matter,” a spokesman for the Norwegian company said.
In addition, the company’s subsidiary Odfjell USA Inc., Houston was “requested to assist in a parallel investigation initiated by U.S. competition authorities relating to the chemical tanker market,” Odfjell added. It said that it has “no knowledge of any unlawful conduct.”
The Stolt-Nielsen Transportation Group, a wholly-owned subsidiary of Stolt-Nielsen S.A., said that it is subject to the EC’s Article 81 investigation, and will cooperate fully with the EC’s investigation.
Stolt-Nielsen S.A. is listed on the Nasdaq and Oslo stock exchanges.
Article 81 of the European Union treaty prohibits anti-competitive agreements which prevent, restrict or distort competition.