On 27 September 2018 the European Commission launched a consultation on the evaluation of Regulation (EC) No 906/2009 that exempts certain categories of agreements, decisions and concerted practices between liner shipping companies providing international liner shipping services between EU ports from European antitrust rules (Consortia Block Exemption Regulation).

Liner shipping services require significant investments and, therefore, are provided by several shipping companies cooperating in “consortia” agreements. Consortia generally help to improve the productivity and quality of available liner shipping services by reason of the rationalisation they bring to the activities of member companies and through the economies of scale they allow in the operation of vessels and utilisation of port facilities.

Article 101, paragraph 1, of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) prohibits agreements between companies that restrict competition. However, according to Regulation (EC) No 906/2009, liner shipping companies may enter into cooperation agreements to provide joint cargo transport services as long as the combined market share of the consortium members in the relevant market in which the consortium operates does not exceed 30%. The exemption provided by the Regulation does not apply to a consortium that fixes the prices charged to third parties, limits the capacity or sales and allocates markets or customers.

Regulation (EC) No 906/2009 will apply until 25 April 2020. The consultation launched by the Commission aims at collecting evidence and views from stakeholders, in particular shipping companies, their clients (shippers and freight forwarders), port operators and their respective associations, in order to determine whether it should be left to expire or prolonged. The period of consultation will end on 20 December 2018.

The consultation is available at the following LINK.