EU REJECTS PEACE OFFERING BY P&I CLUBS

EU REJECTS PEACE OFFERING BY P&I CLUBS

The European Commission has rejected proposals designed to end a long-running antitrust dispute over liability insurance for shipowners. A group of 14 protection and indemnity clubs offered to ease a rule that forbids them to compete on premiums for 12 months after a shipowner has changed clubs.

But Karel Van Miert, European competition commissioner, rejected the offer, saying the so-called International Group Agreement violates competition rules and must be abandoned. The clubs said their proposals were aimed at making the IGA more ''transparent. We are extremely disappointed by the commission's reaction to our proposal,'' a spokesman said. ''Mr. Van Miert indicated previously that he did not want to undermine the system. We trust that this remains the position.''The managers of the clubs will meet again in mid-March to consider their next step, including a request to defend their system at oral hearings in Brussels. The attacks on the IGA are part of a broader investigation.

The clubs' ban on premium competition and their pooling of resources were exempted from competition rules in 1985. But the commission declined to renew the exemption 10 years later, and last June issued formal objections to the system.