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No anti competition laws in Sri Lanka SL shippers say time right for govt. to reform laws

By Devan Daniel

Container storage on harbour

Sri Lanka has no anti competition laws and continue to be victims of the cartelisation of shipping lines and Sri Lankan shippers said it would step up efforts to lobby for legislation against such anti competitive practices in international trade, now that the government was focused on developing the country’s economy after the defeat of terrorism.

"We have been lobbying hard with the government for a long time but now we have a good chance because the government is focused on developing the economy," Chairman of the Sri Lanka Shippers’ Council, Randolph Perera, said.

Addressing the press soon after the annual sessions of the Asian Shippers’ Council held in Colombo last week, Perera said Sri Lankan shippers did not have legal recourse to a dispute with shipping lines over terminal handling charges (THC) as the country did not have anti competitive laws.

Shippers took the representative body of shipping lines in Sri Lanka to courts alleging that shipping lines unfairly slapped additional charges by way of THCs which eroded the competitiveness of exports.

But the court referred the matter to an arbitration committee.

"This case could not be heard in court because Sri Lanka had no anti competition laws to deal with such issues," Perera said.

Meanwhile, the Asian Shippers’ Council noted that Asian country’s continued to be the victims of collusion, cartelisation and anti-competitive practices of international shipping lines.

It charged that shipping lines continuously introduced arbitrary surcharges, THCs and colluded to increase freight rates despite the fall in demand for freight space due to falling trade caused by the global financial crisis.

The Asian Shippers’ Council said Asian governments would have to be engaged in a bid to push for legislative reforms and implement anti competition laws.

Representatives from the European Shippers’ Council and Freight Transport Association of the UK said their organisations would assist their Asian counterparts, dispensing with experiences in moving the European Commission to remove block exemptions, thus preventing shipping lines from colluding and cartelising (see Shipping and Logistics page 4).

Sri Lanka’s export sector continues to struggle against the ill affects of the global financial crisis.

The Export Development Reward Scheme proposed by the government is yet to finalise approvals and disburse funds for the first quarter of the year.

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