FTA cautious over liner conference guidelines
The United Kingdom’s Freight Transport Association, which represents British shippers and logistics companies, said it welcomes the European Commission’s plan to issue guidelines to plot a legal framework for the post-conference era, but cautioned that they should not be used to create any new form of immunity.
The EC Wednesday proposed to repeal the European Council Regulation 4056/86, which grants liner conferences an exemption to set common freight rates and cooperate on capacity.
“This is precisely what is required: clear guidelines as to what the shipping lines can and cannot do within the EU’s competition rules. We do not need any new block exemptions from these rules,” said Andrew Traill, the FTA’s head of maritime policy.
“Of course we are not at the end of the campaign yet: we need to see the guidelines the commission is to produce, and make sure that they really do apply competition policy to such things as means of exchanging information. For example, we will not accept price indexes, because they are unnecessary in a competitive market and could be used to raise the benchmark freight rate and bear no relation to levels of service,” said Chris Welsh, general manager campaigns at the FTA.
“With the end of the conference system in sight, I would like to see all shipping lines publish their own shipping tariff, rather like the airlines do, in order to tell their customers what the starting price is. That is a far better way to proceed than by producing a price index. These are issues we shall no doubt return to, but I think we should all be very glad that at long last the life of the conference system is drawing to an end,” Welsh said.
The EC said it will publish its first interim guideline in September 2006.