Tripartite shippers back EU immunity rules reform, end of THCs
The Tripartite Shippers’ Group representing shippers’ organizations in the United States, Asia and Europe have expressed support for the reform of the European Union’s regulation granting antitrust immunity to carrier conferences, saying, “conferences and discussion agreements are relics of the past.”
Comprising the National Industrial Transportation League, Japan Shippers' Council and European Shippers' Council, the Tripartite Shippers' Group held its annual meeting in Shanghai Sept. 9-11. It was joined by the Asian Shippers' Group, which includes shippers’ organizations from Hong Kong, mainland China, Korea, Thailand and the Association of South East Asian Nations.
On maritime regulatory reform, the tripartite group said one of its major goals continues to be “advancing reforms that are designed to achieve a market driven environment,” and that liner shipping is not different from other global industries.
“The Tripartite Shippers' Group believes that collective authority to discuss and set rates only promotes inefficiencies and perpetuates an archaic environment,” it said. Instead, customized relations should be the rule. The group said today's shipping environment requires shippers and carriers work together “as equal economic partners,” and that rates and services be determined on the basis of “market conditions, actual costs and reasonable returns on investments.”
The group endorsed the European Commission's findings, which supports a review and repeal of Regulation 4056/86, the law granting immunity to conferences in European trades.
The tripartite group also broadly welcomed the recent proposals made to the European Commission by the carrier lobby European Liner Affairs Association accepting the end of joint pricing by carriers in Europe in return for a narrower immunity allowing them to set joint surcharges and exchange statistics on supply, demand and freight rates. The shipper group described the European Liner Affairs Association proposals as “a positive beginning,” but noted they require further detailed examination by both industry and government.
“Also welcomed is the recognition of the need for change, and in particular, reform in the current regulatory framework which has historically allowed carriers to jointly coordinate activities within liner shipping conferences that allow carriers to agree to pricing as well as the supply of shipping services,” the shipper group said.
The shipper group discussed the ongoing issue of Terminal Handling Charges (THCs), which are particularly unpopular in Asia, and called for their re-incorporation into ocean freight rates. More transparency on the components and costings of THCs are necessary, it said.
The tripartite group's annual meeting coincided with the third anniversary of the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001. The shipper group expressed its support of international efforts to develop screening procedures prior to loading of freight, and the development of contingency planning in the event of a terrorist attack to keep commercial flows operational.
“These measures include information on the description of cargo and relevant data that may be used to determine its risk category,” the shipper group said.
“The Tripartite Shippers' Group believes that transparent and measurable requirements involving cargo (whose data is protected from business competitors) that may be used by proper government authorities can be entitled to expedited or ‘green lane’ treatment.”
The group said security was a major focus of its meeting. “Since 9/11, extensive resources have been spent by shippers, among others in the freight transport industry, to ensure that the world's supply chain is safe from terrorism, and that adoptive measures are effective and do not impeded the flow of commerce,” it said.
On air cargo, the group said it supports the liberalization of air transport.
The latest group discussions, now in their 11th year, took place in China for the first time.