Developments in the review process on EU maritime competition rules

Since the European Commission formally launched its review of the European Union (EU) maritime competition rules in the form of a consultation paper in 2003, it has become increasingly clear that the current rules will be changed. Not only will the current Regulation 4056/86, which grants the right for so-called liner conferences to operate, most probably be repealed, but non-liner shipping will at the same time become fully subject to the European Commission’s general implementation powers of the Treaty’s competition rules (Art 81 and 82). Exactly when these changes will take place is still up for discussion, but in parallel, the Commission has engaged in a thorough fact-finding process with a view to providing the industry with some further guidance on what forms of cooperation agreements will be acceptable under EU competition rules in the future. 

A number of significant developments have taken place recently:  The Commission has visited several shipping “capitals” in Europe during the last couple of months talking to shipping companies, brokers and shipping associations. The purpose of these visits has been to gain a better understanding of how the non-liner shipping markets work. Similarly the Commission has put out questionnaires to both industry associations and Member States requesting further information. Following a tender process, the Commission granted in July a contract to a consortium consisting of the three partners Fearnleys, Global Insight and the law firm, Holman, Fenwick and Willan to produce a comprehensive study into the functioning of the non-liner shipping markets and the forms of commercial cooperation frequently used by operators therein. 

Click here for a further summary of some of the main developments so far in this review process.  

Contact: Kristian R. Fuglesang