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European Commission grants container block exemption review wish

The European Commission has invited evidence on its antitrust regulation around container lines, shortly after the port and logistics sector demanded such a review.

The call for evidence “invites feedback” on the performance of the Consortia Block Exemption Regulation, the means by which container lines can co-operate without falling foul of antitrust rules.

The Commission said it had also sent questionnaires to interested parties along the maritime supply chain including carriers, shippers and freight forwarders, port and terminal operators.  The questionnaires ask questions on the impact container line co-operation has, and the impact of the Consortia Block Exemption Regulation since its revamp in 2020.

Feedback is invited for eight weeks, closing on October 3, 2022.

The industry feedback will be factored into the Commission’s decision on its course of action when the Consortia Block Exemption Regulation expires on April 25, 2024. Once the review is complete, the Commission will decide whether to extend the regulation as-is, amend the regulation, or let it expire.

For container lines, 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, also known as ‘consortia'.”

At the heart of the Commission’s decision is whether consumers enjoy an even share of any resulting benefits of consortia. The last review of the regulation found that costs per container had fallen under the regulation, but recent supply chain disruption and rising freight costs may complicate the coming review.

In July, a letter to European Commissioner for Competition, Margrethe Vestager demanding a review of Consortia Block Exemption Regulation was signed by CLECAT (European Association for Forwarding, Transport, Logistics and Customs Services), FEPORT (The Federation of European Private Port Companies and Terminals), the European Shippers’ Council, the European Barge Union (EBU), Global Shippers Forum, European Tugowners Association, International Union for Road-Rail Combined Transport (UIRR), the International Federation of Freight Forwarders (FIATA), International Association of Movers and FIDI Global Alliance.