The European Commission issued a statement last year, proposing to extend the regulation of excluding liner shipping consortia from the EU antitrust rules for additional 4 years, adding that the current measure is still adequate.

The “Consortia Block Exemption Regulation (BER)” is set to expire on April 25, 2020, and the Commission will finalize the initiative prior to its expiry.

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Traditionally, the EU is against agreements between companies that restrict competition. However, the maritime Consortia Block Exemption Regulation allows, under certain conditions, shipping lines with a combined market share of below 30% to enter into cooperation agreements to provide joint cargo transport services.

Commenting on this decision, Nicolette van der Jagt, Director General of European Association for Forwarding, Transport, Logistics and Customs Services (CLECAT) noted that:

This decision is based on the assessment that the CBER saves money for the shipping lines and cuts down on the red tape in the Commission, fully dismissing the views of the other parties in the maritime supply chain who are not benefiting from a similar exemption, but in many cases are competing with carriers on services

Moreover, Lamia Kerdjoudj-Belkaid, Secretary General of FEPORT transferred the organization's strong disagreement with the procedure of the European Commission, 'which has led to the publication of the decision to prolong the CBER in the Work Programme.' FEPORT explains that the Commission’s recognition that data is missing is unacceptable in view of the recommendation to extend the BER without a single modification of the text.

We did not receive answers from the European Commission regarding the objections we have detailed in our legal analysis submitted in the framework of the last consultation on the CBER which has been closed on 3 January 2020

Anna Maria Darmanin, Secretary General of ETA, highlighted.

CLECAT also said that the associations all share the view that there are many legal flaws in the arguments put forward by the Commission. These flaws relate to many issues, such as missing data, one-sided assumptions on efficiency gains disregarding non-rate related parameters, lack of a proper definition of relevant geographic markets to assess market shares and a failure to identify remaining benefits to users, if the CBER would be continued.

For this reason, the associations called the Commission to provide answers to the questions raised in the framework of the last consultation which are of primary importance for their respective members.