July 14 - The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has submitted comments, on behalf of the global shipping industry, to a comprehensive competition policy review being conducted by the Australian government.

ICS' comments support the maintenance of important antitrust exemptions that currently apply to international maritime transport.

The provisions under Part X of Australia's Competition and Consumer Act currently permit container shipping lines to organise consortia and other cooperative arrangements, and have helped ensure that international shipping markets function smoothy.

However, these arrangements are now subject to a 'root and branch' review of Australia's competition regulations.

ICS has highlighted that Australia's current treatment of international shipping is consistent with the competition regimes applied by Australia's major trading partners, including nations in the Asia Pacific whose regimes have also recently been subject to review.

ICS says that it acknowledged the intention of the Australian government in wishing to carefully examine practices that might distort competition, but it believes that it remains appropriate for exemptions to apply to certain carrier agreements which yield net benefit to shippers, exporters and consumers in Australia, as well as to the Australian economy as a whole.

It is suggested by ICS that whatever Australia decides should at least be consisten with the APEC Guidelines Related to Liner Shipping adopted by the APEC member economies in June 2011 in Brisbane.

ICS also notes that the European Commission has recently decided to extend the block exemption from competition rules that applies to liner shipping consortia until at least 2020.

A copy of the ICS submission to the Australian Competition Policy Review can be found here.