Shipper groups, extending their drive against collective ocean carrier actions, are calling on regulators in the Asia-Pacific region to follow Europe’s lead in banning liner conferences.
“The remaining immunities from antitrust rules hurt Europe’s competitors as much as they hurt us,” Nicolette van der Jagt, secretary general of the European Shippers’ Council, said in an interview. “Shipping is international by nature, and international trade relies on it being able to flourish and respond directly to the needs of trade, not to [line’s] own or collective ambitions.”
The plea came after the International Chamber of Shipping urged New Zealand’s Productivity Commission to maintain its exemption of liner practices such as conferences and consortia agreements from the competition provisions of the New Zealand Commerce Act. The commission is conducting an inquiry into the performance of international freight transport sector in New Zealand.
“ESC believes that in the European post-conference environment it is imperative that we protect the advances made in Europe by supporting shippers elsewhere in the world to remove similar block exemptions for shipping lines,” van der Jagt said.
John Lu, chairman of the Asian Shippers’ Council, said cooperation between lines was anathema to free trade. “They act like the cartels and they drive up the cost of transport,” he said.
In a submission yesterday the ICS asked the Commission to “take full account of the recognition given by other competition authorities” to the benefits of liner conferences and consortia. The ICS also stressed that New Zealand’s current exemption was in line with the policies of Australia, the United States, China and other Far Eastern countries.
“[Consortia and conferences] allow shipping services to cope better with the severe and sudden imbalances in trade flows that are a feature of global shipping markets, including intense seasonal fluctuations,” the ICS said.
The chamber said liner cooperation helps them to commit to long-term investments need in the high-value asset industry.
“Whatever might be decided for reasons of national competition policy, ship operators trading to and from New Zealand are part of a global shipping market. The various maritime competition rules that apply in the Asia Pacific are currently broadly in alignment,” the ICS said.
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