February 28 - The European Commission is inviting comments on a proposal to prolong an exemption of liner shipping consortia from the application of EU antitrust rules that prohibit certain agreements between companies.
The maritime consortia block exemption regulation allows shipping lines to enter into cooperation for the purpose of providing a joint service (so-called "consortia").
In light of the comments received, the Commission will then adopt a new Regulation before the expiry of the current Regulation in April 2015.
A consortium, grouping shipping lines which co-operate to provide joint maritime cargo transport services, usually allow liner shipping carriers to rationalise their activities and achieve economies of scale and there is a view that if consortia are faced with sufficient competition and are not used to fix prices or share the market, the users of the services provided by consortia usually benefit from improvements in productivity and service quality.
The Commission has therefore exempted such agreements from the prohibition in Article 101 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), provided that they do not exceed a certain market share.
The first consortia block exemption Regulation was adopted in 1995 and prolonged several times. The latest market investigation, conducted in 2013, showed that the main tenets of the Commission's approach are still valid. For consortia and alliances exceeding the market share foreseen in the block exemption regulation, the Commission will continue to closely monitor market developments and the conduct of companies to ensure that markets remain open and competitive.
The draft Regulation, published for consultation, proposes to continue to exempt consortia under the existing legal framework for an additional five-year period until April 2020.
The draft Regulation is available here.
Interested parties are invited to submit their views before 31 March 2014 to:
Directorate-General for Competition
Unit COMP/F1, Office MADO 9/62
Fax: (32-2) 295 01 28