The JOURNAL of COMMERCE ONLINE
The world's top ocean container lines say influential shippers and freight forwarders are backing their proposals for data-sharing to replace outlawed conferences.
European Union governments recently approved the regulators' plans to remove the liner shipping industry's immunity from the EU's competition rules. As a result, liner conferences will prohibited on routes to and from European ports in October, 2008.
The European Commission, the EU's executive, has slammed the liners' proposal for carrier-only consultations over trade and ship supply forecasts, claiming such meetings carry a "high risk...of collusive practice."
But the European Liner Affairs Association, which represents 21 of the world's largest ocean carriers, claimed a representative survey of 21 large- and medium-sized shippers and freight forwarders showed widespread support for carrier consultations.
The results of the survey of key shippers including British American Tobacco, Volvo, Kuehne & Nagel and TNT Freight Management, "are in sharp contrast with the position originally taken by the [European Shippers Council] and show that shippers would find the elements of the ELAA proposal which the commission are having most problems with to be very useful," Brussels-based ELAA said.
The survey showed 80 percent of customers support carriers' discussing trade developments including the supply of space on that trade and likely demand; 75 percent support carriers publishing their own supply and demand forecast, and 95 percent support a port-to-port database for volume figures.
"This shows that the theories of a system conducive to collusion, as raised by the [EU] and earlier, also by the ESC, are not supported by those who would supposedly be the victims of this 'collusion'," the liners said.
The commission asked shippers, forwarders and other transport interests for comments on the carriers' proposals for the post-conference era by Oct. 31. It has now begun to sift through their replies before it starts to draw up guidelines for the industry after liner conferences are abolished.