The European Commission has launched a “call for evidence” inviting feedback on the performance of the EU legal framework which exempts liner shipping consortia from EU antitrust rules.
The Commission has also sent targeted questionnaires to interested parties in the maritime liner shipping supply chain (i.e. carriers, shippers and freight forwarders, port and terminal operators) on the impact of consortia between liner shipping companies, as well as of the CBER on their operations since 2020.
Interested parties can provide comments for eight weeks, until 3 October.
EU antitrust rules generally ban agreements between companies that restrict competition. However, the CBER 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’.
The CBER is due to expire on 25 April 2024. The Commission therefore needs to carry out an evaluation of the CBER on how it has functioned since 2020.
The call for evidence and targeted questionnaires are part of the evaluation of the CBER. The feedback collected by the Commission will complement the evidence it has collected as part of its sectoral monitoring activities.
Over the last two years, the Commission has had regular exchanges with market participants, such as shippers, freight forwarders and carriers, as well as with competition and regulatory authorities in Europe, the US and other jurisdictions, on the challenges faced by the shipping sector. In December 2021, as part of its sectoral monitoring activities, the Commission also started a fact-finding exercise by sending questionnaires to carriers active on trades to and from the EU, to collect market information, in particular on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on their operations and on the maritime supply chain.
Interested parties can submit their comments to the call for evidence and targeted questionnaires until 3 October 2022.
The evaluation will help the Commission decide whether the CBER should expire or be extended again, with or without amendments. The Commission will summarise the results of the evaluation in a Staff Working Document that is planned to be published in the last quarter of 2022.
Liner shipping services comprise the provision of regular, scheduled non-bulk maritime cargo transport (the vast majority in containers) on a specific route. They play an essential role in EU trade and for the EU economy as a whole. They require significant levels of investment and therefore are regularly provided by several shipping companies cooperating in consortia.