ESC: more countries will end conference exemption
The European Shippers’ Council believes that more administrations around the world will copy the European Commission’s decision to end the block exemption rules that allow liner conferences to set common freight rates and cooperate on capacity.
After a three-year review the EC in December proposed to repeal Regulation 4056/86, which permitted the exemption. The EC will later this year publish guidelines on the application of the competition rules to the sector and to examine any potential replacement model, including the carrier lobby group European Liner Affairs Association’s (ELAA) proposed information exchange forum.
“European shippers are looking forward to reaping the benefits of a new competitive environment that will be created when the liner shipping block exemption is repealed,” said Nicolette van der Jagt, secretary general of the ESC.
van der Jagt was speaking last week at a meeting in Washington of the Consultative Shipping Group that represents European Countries and Japan in discussions with the United States on maritime policy issues.
“Both from our conversations in public and in private, we were greatly encouraged by the general impression we were left with that government officials on both sides of the Atlantic recognized the positive effects for their industries from removing antitrust immunity from the liner shipping industry,” van der Jagt said.
“There appears to be little if any concern over any conflict of laws once the EU repeals its block exemption regulation for liner shipping conferences. And the message presented from shippers that this would herald in a world of new opportunities and mature, stable business relationships between customers and carriers to the ultimate benefit of all was positively acknowledged. There was even an indication that Japan’s Fair Trade Commission was in favor of repealing antitrust immunity from the liner shipping conferences.
“We are convinced that other administrations will adapt their liner shipping competition legislation at some point in the near future in order to give their industry similar benefits and competitive advantage to that which will be enjoyed by European industry,” she said.
The ESC is also convinced that the EC will not adopt any of the ELAA proposals when it draws up its guidelines. “We are confident that the European Commission understands our concerns about the ELAA proposals and will act upon this. The commission has already said that some elements of the ELAA package of proposals for information exchange between carriers are problematic, and we are confident that the commission will not entertain anything that will water down the positive consequences of the repeal,” van der Jagt said.
“It is now the time for the carriers to fully embrace a competitive market and we are looking forward to further discussions with the carriers to ensure that we all benefit from this exciting opportunity to capitalize on the new market environment, and can work together to deal with the real issues affecting maritime supply chains, issues such as security, congestion and service performance.”
The Consultative Shipping Group will hold their next meeting in September