The European Commission has prolonged for another four years the regulation outlining the conditions under which liner shipping consortia can provide joint services without infringing EU antitrust rules that prohibit anticompetitive agreements between companies.
This regulation known as the “Consortia Block Exemption Regulation” has been extended until 25 April 2024. EU law generally bans agreements between companies that restrict competition. However, the Consortia Block Exemption Regulation allows, under certain conditions, liner shipping operators with a combined market share of below 30 percent to enter into cooperation agreements to provide joint liner shipping services (known as “consortia”). These agreements, however, cannot include price-fixing or market-sharing.
The current Consortia Block Exemption Regulation was adopted in 2009 and prolonged in 2014 by five years, and was due to expire on 25 April 2020.
John Butler, chief executive officer, World Shipping Council, commented: “Vessel sharing is the backbone of the global liner shipping network, and we should not underestimate the value of this tool for smaller carriers and lower volume trade lanes where demand might not otherwise support as many competitors.”
Simon Bennett, deputy secretary general, International Chamber of Shipping, added: “The decision is very important because it will also influence the position taken by other competition authorities around the world as and when they periodically review the application of their own competition rules to international liner shipping.”