Antitrust: Commission seeks feedback on performance of exemption for liner shipping consortia

The European Commission has launched today a call for evidence inviting feedback on the performance of the EU legal framework which exempts liner shipping consortia from EU antitrust rules (Consortia Block Exemption Regulation or ‘CBER’). Today, 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 2022. 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. Today’s 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. 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. A press release is available online.