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Container shipping market: Dialogue or complaint

The European Shippers Council (ESC) and CLECAT, European associations grouping shippers and forwarders, recently criticised policies being pursued by shipping lines in a joint open letter addressed to the European Commission.

The bodies have now followed up the letter sent to the directorate general for competition and reiterated their key points in an online discussion with the directorate.

Its representatives said they are aware of the market situation, adding that price hikes are mainly due to demand fluctuations arising from government measures to contain the Covid-19 outbreak.

They don’t believe the hikes justify starting an investigation. They can only examine the situation when the formal review of the Consortia BER is relaunched, or if there is a legal complaint. The DG nevertheless acknowledged that the situation calls for a global overview and for renewed discussions with maritime competition authorities worldwide.

The EU Commission also suggested dialogue between market participants to find a common approach to problems. ESC and CLECAT are now considering whether there is a case to file an official complaint to the Commission.

Meanwhile, in the USA, according to the Container News website, the Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) is in the process of independently verifying allegations that carriers are refusing to carry export cargo in contravention of the US Shipping Act.

Container News reports that FMC Commissioner Carl Bentzel said that the FMC is looking at information provided to the commission that lines “in their haste to get boxes back to Asia for [US] imports have not been paying attention to their obligations to provide services to our exporters.”

Bentzel said the FMC is in the process of independently verifying the allegations to make certain that they are accurate, but the “question is one of reasonableness and we’re looking at that now.”

The investigations into the carrier behaviour, following allegations from shippers has also extended to evaluating the alliance agreements to understand how they are working and to check if there have been unreasonable practices.



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