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Home News Shippers will continue to fight EC's liner block exemption extension

Shippers will continue to fight EC’s liner block exemption extension

European shippers have warned that they intend to fight on against the European Commission’s plans to extend the block exemption from EU competition rules, which allows liner shipping groups to form consortia.

The commission had already indicated in November that it was favourable to a four-year extension of the exemption, but the shippers and their allies claim that in including plans to extend the exemption in its newly published work programme, it has taken no account of the objections they raised under its own consultation process.

European Shippers’ Council (ESC) chairman Denis Choumert told Container News today, however, that he believed that the battle against the extension of the exemption had not yet been lost.

He said that the ESC and its allies had already written to several EU commissioners, including executive vice president and former competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager, asking for urgent meetings.

He further warned, “We have not yet planned the next move if the Commission sticks to its present position, but there will be one.”

The ESC has already issued a joint press release with European forwarders’ body CLECAT, the European Tugowners’ Association (ETA) and the federation of European Private Port Companies and Terminals (FEPORT).

In it, Choumert claims that the block exemption represents a “massive loss for the protection of shippers and customers under European competition law”, arguing for a “more robust assessment on the impact of the CBER (Consortia Block Exemption Regulation) on the entire supply chain”.

CLECAT’s Nicolette van der Jagt said, “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.”

In the presentation of its work programme, which is dated 29 January, the commission makes no reference to the objections voiced by the shippers and their allies.

It says simply, “The extension of the current Consortia Block Exemption Regulation for another four years will continue to simplify the analysis of consortia’s compliance with competition rules, limit the dependency on external advice and reduce legal costs.”

Andrew Spurrier
European Correspondent

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