Ocean shipping: EU Commission widens its price-fixing probe

The unannounced visit was made to enforce the abolished exemption from antitrust activity the Commission enacted three years ago.

By ·

The European Commission’s investigation of ocean carrier antitrust rules ramped up to a new level this week, as Asian players were also targeted by regulators.

“In the old days of conference pricing, this kind of behavior was called ‘independent action,’” said Dirk Visser, managing director of the Dutch consultancy, Dynamar. “But the government is now becoming much more vigilant where this is concerned.”

Indeed, the Commission reported that when antitrust officials raided European headquarters, Asian carriers were among the others targeted for investigation. Neptune Orient Lines, OOCL, Evergreen Marine and Hanjin Shipping – all leading operators in the transpacific trade – are said to be complying with the price-fixing probe.

Earlier in the week, EU regulators began searching through the files kept by Maersk, CMA-CGM, and Hapag-Lloyd. The unannounced visit was made to enforce the abolished exemption from antitrust activity the Commission enacted three years ago.

Spokesmen for OOCL confirmed that the Commission’s raid was not “carrier specific,” and that it was complying with investigators. Meanwhile, Visser told LM that the few remaining U.S.-flag carriers were unlikely to face similar scrutiny.

“Only APL is at risk,” he said, “but of course, that belongs to a Singapore-based company now.”

Earlier this year Horizon Lines, a pure-play U.S. flag based in Charlotte North Carolina, was recently fined $45 million for a price-fixing scheme of its own following Justice Department charges that it had conspired with Crowley, Sea Star and Trailer Bridge to fix prices and increase fuel surcharges on shipping lanes to Puerto Rico.

Shippers comprising the Agriculture Transportation Coalition and the National Industrial Transportation League allege that carriers in the transpacific are also quietly colluding on prices through sub rosa “talking agreements.”

The Federal Maritime Commission is currently looking into that matter, said spokesmen.

For related articles click here.


About the Author

Patrick Burnson, Executive Editor
Patrick Burnson is executive editor for Logistics Management and Supply Chain Management Review magazines and web sites. Patrick is a widely-published writer and editor who has spent most of his career covering international trade, global logistics, and supply chain management. He lives and works in San Francisco, providing readers with a Pacific Rim perspective on industry trends and forecasts. You can reach him directly at [email protected]

Subscribe to Logistics Management Magazine!

Subscribe today. It's FREE!
Get timely insider information that you can use to better manage your entire logistics operation.
Start your FREE subscription today!

Latest Whitepaper
How Lean is your Lean Quality Program?
Avoid quality program bureaucracy that can sap logistics productivity and increase costs
Download Today!
From the September 2016 Issue
Indecision revolving around three complex supply chain elements—transportation, technology and organizational structure—finds many companies waiting to commit to a strategic path. However, waiting too long will only result in a competitive disadvantage that will be difficult to overcome in today’s fast-paced, global economy.
Time for Asia’s ports to rebuild
Is the freight recession upon us…again?
View More From this Issue
Subscribe to Our Email Newsletter
Sign up today to receive our FREE, weekly email newsletter!
Latest Webcast
Supply Chain Best Practices: Visibility to In-Transit Inventory
During this webcast you'll learn on how various organizations have gained instant access to in-transit parcels and given access to this information to stakeholders.
Register Today!
EDITORS' PICKS
25th Annual Masters of Logistics
Indecision revolving around three complex supply chain elements—transportation, technology and...
2016 Quest for Quality: Winners Take the Spotlight
Which carriers, third-party logistics providers and U.S. ports have crossed the service-excellence...

Regional ports concentrate on growth and connectivity
With the Panama Canal expansion complete, ocean cargo gateways in the Caribbean are investing to...
Digital Reality Check
Just how close are we to the ideal digital supply network? Not as close as we might like to think....