End of sea-freight cartels?

BRUSSELS (Reuters) – The European Commission yesterday proposed banning now-legal cartels in the transatlantic shipping industry by repealing an exemption given to shippers from EU regulations. Liner shipping – the provision of regular scheduled maritime freight transport – has been organized in the form of cartels since the 1870s. These cartels are known as liner conferences. They bring together most or all lines operating continuous service on a particular route. «The European shipping industry is strong and has everything to gain from a competitive market,» said EU Internal Market Commissioner Charlie McCreevy in a statement. Oceangoing shipping accounts for more than 70 percent of Europe’s intercontinental trade by volume. Among the largest shippers are such firms as Denmark’s A.P. Moeller-Maersk. The Commission said the defenders of conferences say that the liner shipping market is unique and requires special competition law treatment. But it continued that in the 20 years that the block exemption has been in force the market had changed considerably.