Setting the course for shipping checks

The Competition Commission has struck a blow to the oligopoly in the Aegean Sea on coastal shipping with its decision yesterday to impose a fine on Sea Star Capital Plc. The Cypriot company, linked to the Vardinoyiannis group, will have to pay 3,742,945 euros for not announcing its relationship with peer coastal shipping firm ANEK. The fine may be less than 7 percent of the company’s turnover but is the highest ever imposed in the country in such a decision. It also paves the way for further monitoring of the sector. The commission’s report about the decision suggests that Sea Star Capital had recently acquired 36.5 percent of the shares of Hellenic Seaways and a 15.9 percent stake in ANEK. Arguing that purchasing these stakes would not affect competition conditions, as it does not allow it to control any of those coastal shipping companies, the Cypriot firm had only informed the watchdog of its acquisition of another 16.6 percent stake in ANEK in early 2008. However, the commission has confirmed by various research that Sea Star controls both Hellenic Seaways and ANEK. In the same decision, the Competition Commission has asked the General Directorate for Competition to launch a thorough probe into the possible competition distortion of this concentration in coastal shipping. This will allow for a full check on shareholders of all other companies, to locate any possible similar phenomena.

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