The European Commission has opened consultations on a draft regulation revising the exemption that liner shipping consortia currently enjoy from the EC Treaty's ban on restrictive business practices (Article 81). The Consortia Block Exemption Regulation (823/2000) currently allows shipping lines to enter into cooperation agreements for the purpose of providing a joint service (consortia). A consortium is a group of shipping lines that cooperate to provide joint maritime cargo transport services. Such agreements usually allow shipping lines to rationalise their activities and achieve economies of scale. If consortia are faced with sufficient competition, the users of the services provided by consortia usually benefit from improvements in productivity and quality of service.

The new draft regulation proposes continuing to allow for such cooperation within a new legislative and economic environment. In order to align the Consortia Block Exemption Regulation with the general EU competition rules, it is proposed that only consortia with a market share below 30 per cent should benefit from the exemption.

Observations on the draft regulation should be submitted by 21 November 2008 at the latest. The Commission will then consult Member States in 2009 and adopt the final block exemption regulation before the current regulation expires in April 2010.