EU maritime policy

The future of the commission guidelines on the application of article 101 TFEU to maritime transport services

The submission first summarises the historical background and then the context in which the Maritime Guidelines were adopted. It then outlines the contents of the Maritime Guidelines and highlights the reasons given by the Commission Staff Working Document for allowing the Maritime Guidelines to lapse which the FTA endorses. Read the submission (PDF)

Abolition of liner conferences

Following a prolonged campaign by European shippers with the support of GSF the European Commission repealed the liner conference block exemption from EU competition laws on 18 October 2008. From this date liner conferences were abolished in all trades to and from Europe. The European Commission issues guidelines on the application of EC competition law to the liner shipping industry. The guidelines emphasise that the shipping sector is subject to competition law in the same way as other business sectors.

From 2008 the following conference practices were prohibited.

  • Conference agreements on all routes to and from Europe
  • Conference tariffs
  • Conference terminal handling charges
  • Conference surcharges and common CAF/BAF formulae
  • Price fixing and coordination of general rate increases
  • Manipulation of capacity and manipulation of capacity inputs and outputs
  • Discussions between shipping lines regarding capacity forecasts of individual lines or forecasts developed by a trade association that could lead to joint decisions
  • Publication of recent data identifying market shares by individual line (usually less than 12 months old)
  • Rate restoration programmes

On behalf of GSF the UK Freight Transport Association (incorporating the British Shippers’ Council) has produced A Shippers’ Guide to the Abolition of Liner Conferences (PDF)

European Commission undertakes 'dawn raids' on 12 shipping companies

With the abolition of liner conferences - the key role of shippers’ organisations in Europe - GSF is to monitor the activities of shipping lines to ensure compliance with EC competition rules. During 2009/10 shippers expressed concern over what appeared to be parallel timing by carriers in regard to capacity withdrawals and rate increases in spite of a slump in trade resulting from the world financial crisis.

On 17 May the European Commission confirmed that it had undertaken unannounced inspections at the premises of 12 shipping companies in a number of EU member states. The Commission said that it had 'reason to believe that the companies concerned may have violated the anti-trust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices and or abused their dominant market position'.


EU Consortia Block Exemption Regulation

In the European Union, shipping lines wishing to enter into agreements to operate in consortia have been a Block Exemption from the general EU competition rules. that allows them to co-operate and exchange necessary information.

Consortia are multi-shipping line agreements to operate vessels to advertised schedules and routes in order to provide a regular frequency of sailings and port calls. Cargo booked through one shipping line may be carried on a vessel belonging to another operating in the same consortium. In effect, these are vessel sharing agreements, like the code-sharing of flights in the airline industry.

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Related link
Visit the Freight Transport Association (FTA) website