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Tuesday, December 12, 2017

INTERTANKO foresees dialogue with European Commission on competition rules

Since the entry into force of EU Regulation 1/2003 in July this year, it is as a general rule no longer possible for businesses to seek individual exemptions from the European Union (EU) competition rules. Companies operating in the EU market therefore have to take full responsibility for being in line with the rules without the certainty that came from filing agreements and from obtaining individual exemptions.

As previously advised in Weekly NEWS (WN) No. 36 of 5 September 2003; WN 23 of 4 June 2004; WN 26 of 25 June 2004; WN 42 of 15 October 2004), the European Union (EU) has over the last couple of years undertaken major changes to the way it implements Article 81 (unlawful cooperation agreements) and 82 (abuse of dominant position) of the EC Treaty, the so-called EU competition rules. (Click here to view articles 81 and 82.)

On top of these general changes, which in principle are valid for all, the Commission has also engaged in a full revision of the EU competition rules as applied to shipping. For the non-liner industry the most important change announced will be that this so-called “tramp shipping” segment of the market will now fully come under the implementation powers of the Commission like any other industry. Therefore, Articles 81 and 82 will not only continue to be valid for the tramp industry, but the European Commission will become more actively involved in policing the rules in this sector.

These planned changes, which were most recently outlined in a Commission White Paper published on 13 October 2004, are linked to a broader review of the current block exemption for liner conferences, Council Regulation 4056/86.

In order for the Commission to take into account the legitimate need for the non-liner shipping industry to meet customer demand world-wide for global, efficient and targeted specialised services, INTERTANKO commented on the Commission’s White Paper in a letter addressed to the Commission’s Competition Directorate on 14 December 2004 (click here to view). In the letter, INTERTANKO points out that shipping pools have been developed over several decades in order to meet customer demand. Even though the industry believes that most of these pools are well in line with the EU competition rules, it remains a fact that since the Commission has previously lacked implementation powers in this sector, there is also no jurisprudence or other legal guidance to the industry on this subject.

In its comments to the White Paper, therefore, INTERTANKO welcomes the signalled willingness of the Commission to provide the industry with further guidance on this important matter. INTERTANKO, together with other shipping associations, has expressed its preparedness to assist the Commission in the development of such guidance.

It is still unclear how long time this revision process will take and therefore when new implementation rules will enter into force. INTERTANKO expects, however, to enter into a further dialogue with the Commission during the next few months.

Contact: Peter Swift