The Global Shippers Forum (GSF), which includes the U.S. National Industrial Transportation League as one of its members, said that it favors terminating the block exemption for the liner shipping industry in Europe, which is due to expire on April 25, 2015.
As part of a regular process to review regulations every five years, the European Commission is reviewing its Consortia Regulation No 906/2009, which grants an exemption from some EC laws to liner shipping agreements with a 30-percent or smaller market share so that carriers can can jointly operate liner shipping services, adjust capacity in response to supply and demand, jointly operate or use port terminals and ancillary activities such as use of data exchange systems.
Chris Welsh, the secretary general of GSF, said "it is now well
established what the acceptable parameters of consortia agreements
should be" and that there was no longer any obvious need for a block exemption regulation; he added that shipping can rely on "self assessment" as other industries do.
He said carriers that are part of the G6 vessel-sharing agreement or the planned P3 network that exceed the 30-percent market share threshold are already having to do self assessments as to whether their agreements are anti-competitive or provide wide benefits such as cost reduction and enhanced service, and are allowed by European competition law. For agreements with market shares under 30 percent, he said EC has already indicated that such agreements are unlikely to cause competition problems.
He said the general policy direction of the European Commission has been to get rid of block exemptions for all industries, and that the GSF feels liner shipping should be treated like other sectors.
"In some ways, I think normalization is to the benefit of the shipping industry, in the sense that at the moment shippers could make a complaint under the existing consortia regulation if they felt lines were complying with the terms of the regulation. But on the other hand, there have been not complaints lodged under the regulation that I'm aware of," said Welsh.