The European Commission (EC) is seeking feedback on an EU shipping regulation that shippers and freight forwarders claim disadvantages them and consumers.
EU law generally bans agreements that restrict competition.
However, the EU’s Consortia Block Exemption Regulation (CBER) allows shipping companies with a combined market share of below 30% to enter into cooperation agreements or consortia to provide joint cargo transport services.
Since 2009, the CBER has allowed shipping companies to form these consortia and work together on key shipping lines.
Container shipping customers and service suppliers claim the regulation exempts liners from many of the checks and balances of EU competition law.
They say the CBER permits them to exchange commercially-sensitive information to manage the number and size of ships deployed and the frequency and timing of sailings on trade routes, Splash247 reported.
The EC has called for evidence and invited feedback on the functioning of the CBER, which is due to expire in April 2024, reports the Loadstar.
Interested parties can submit evidence here.
The EC has also sent targeted questionnaires to relevant parties in the liner shipping supply chain. The review will assess the impact of the CBER since its renewal in 2020 and consider whether the exemption should be extended or amended.
Interested parties will have eight weeks – until 3 October – to provide comments.
Last month 10 trade organisations, representing the owners and forwarders of cargo, port terminal operators and supply chain members, issued an open letter calling for a review of the CBER, reported Port Technology.
The letter said it was “wrong” that while the shipping industry had collectively managed the impact of Covid, shipping companies had generated “profits totalling over $186 billion in 2021, at the expense of the rest of the supply chain, and ultimately Europe’s consumers”.
Signatories pointed to the US Ocean Shipping Reform Act, signed into law in June, and crackdowns on unfair pricing and shipping strategies from carriers by national governments.