Companies say a nearly two-year-old investigation has been dropped.
The U.S. Department of Justice has reportedly dropped an investigation of major container carriers that began nearly two years ago.
The Department of Justice did not immediately respond to a request for comment, but several shipping companies caught up in the probe said on or off the record that they were told the investigation had ended, clearing both their individual companies and the container shipping industry more generally.
Mediterranean Shipping Company SA (MSC) said Tuesday that it “has been informed by the U.S. Department of Justice that the DoJ has closed its investigation into MSC and the global container shipping industry, without bringing charges or imposing penalties. This is an important decision where the global container shipping industry has, once again, been fully investigated and exonerated. MSC is pleased to move forward, now that this matter is closed.”
Camilla Jain Holtse, head of competition law and policy, at A.P. Moller – Maersk also said, “We are pleased to confirm that the United States Department of Justice has closed its investigation into containerized shipping and has released Maersk from any obligations under the Grand Jury subpoenas issued during the March 2017 meeting of the International Council of Containership Operators” informally known as the Box Club.
Several container shipping companies were attending meetings of the Box Club and World Shipping Council in San Francisco two years ago when they were served with subpoenas.
“Maersk provided its full cooperation to the DOJ throughout the investigation, and we believe the DOJ’s decision to release Maersk reflects our strong commitment to competition compliance governance and structures over the years,” Holtse said. “We will continue to foster effective compliance through training and supporting our employees, monitoring our activities, and working cooperatively with authorities on regulatory matters whenever relevant.”
A Hapag-Lloyd spokesman also confirmed it “was informed that the U.S. Department of Justice, Antitrust Division is closing its investigation without charges against the company, its affiliates or any other current or former employees.”
At the time the investigation began the 18 members of the Box Club were China COSCO Shipping, CMA CGM, Crowley, Evergreen Line, Hamburg Süd, Hapag-Lloyd, Hyundai Merchant Marine (HMM), “K” Line, Maersk Line, MOL, MSC, NYK, OOCL, Pacific International Lines, United Arab Shipping Co. (UASC), Wan Hai, Yang Ming and ZIM. Since that time the membership of the group has been reduced as the three Japanese carriers have been replaced by Ocean Network Express, Hamburg Sud has been removed as a result of its acquisition by Maersk and UASC has been removed as it was acquired by Hapag-Lloyd.