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EU shippers to assist Asia counter cartelisation of shipping lines Asian shippers unaware of European laws ending liner conferences

By Devan Daniel

The European Union has introduced laws ending liner conferences thus preventing shipping lines from colluding and forming cartels after a long-drawn legal battle, but Asian shippers are not aware that they could also reap the benefits when exporting to the EU.

European observers participating at the 5th Annual Sessions and AGM of the Asian Shippers Council, held in Colombo last week, said Asia’s exporters need to be made aware that shipping lines carrying goods to the EU cannot collude on prices according to European Commission laws.

“After a long process the European Union introduced laws preventing liner conferences, and this, after numerous legal battles had been fought. Shipping lines had been spending about US$ 30 to 50 million defending there claims. There is a reason why they wanted to do this,” Christopher Welsh from the Freight Transport Association of the UK said.

“These shipping lines may have been powerful and rich but at the end of the day our arguments held and we made a strong case which got the attention of the OECD which studied the issue and finally the European Commission introduced appropriate laws,” Welsh said.

He said liner conferences no longer existed in the EU and shippers could enter into individual contracts with each shipping line.

“The process of repealing the status held by shipping lines began in the ‘60s. It did not happen over night. The OECD commissioned a study on this issue only in 2001,” Nicolette Der Jagt of the European Shippers’ Council said.

Welsh and Der Jagt both said the councils they represented could help the Asian Shippers’ Council mount a similar campaign in the region.

“The legal battles we had to fights drained us financially, we had finances but are pockets were not that deep,” Welsh said.

“However, our councils can share are experiences and provide the necessary technical assistance to our Asian counterparts when lobbying with governments to tackle the stand taken by the shipping lines,” he said.

Welsh also said Asian exporters were not altogether aware that shipping goods to the EU had to be free from collusion and monopolistic practices of shipping lines and thus continued to fall pray.

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