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IP/07/1325

Brussels, 13th September 2007

Antitrust: Commission calls for comments on draft Guidelines for maritime transport

(see also MEMO/07/355)

The European Commission has launched a public consultation on draft Guidelines on the application of EU competition rules to the maritime transport sector. The consultation is an interim step in the preparation of the Guidelines, due to be finalised in 2008. The draft Guidelines follow the repeal of the block exemption for liner shipping conferences and the extension of the scope of the competition implementing rules to cabotage and tramp shipping services (Regulation 1/2003) decided by the Competitiveness Council on 25th September 2006 (see IP/06/1249, IP/06/1283 and MEMO/06/344).

In September 2006, the Council decided to put an end to the exemption from the Treaty’s ban on restrictive business practices (Article 81) which benefited price fixing liner shipping conferences on routes to and from the EU and to apply the same procedural rules to cabotage and tramp shipping services (the non-regular, maritime transport of bulk cargo that is not containerised). This marks the start of a new competitive regime in the maritime sector. To ensure that the new regime fosters competitive markets, the Commission committed itself to provide guidance on how it proposes to apply the EU competition rules to the liner and tramp shipping sector.

Liner shipping

Exchanges of volume, capacity and price data among liner shipping carriers can increase market transparency and contribute to improving the way liner shipping services are provided. However, the exchange of commercially sensitive data may breach competition law. The draft Guidelines provide more guidance to the industry as to when information exchanges are considered compatible with EU competition rules.

Tramp shipping

Following the extension of Regulation 1/2003 to include tramp services, ship-owners and Member States asked the Commission for guidance on agreements between tramp shipping operators, so-called pool agreements. A tramp pool, the predominant form of organisation among ship-owners in this sector, brings together a number of similar vessels under different ownership and operated under a single administration. The draft Guidelines consider that, given the variation in pools' characteristics in the diverse tramp shipping markets, no general statement can be made whether pools are in conformity with the EU competition rules. Each pool must be analysed separately. The Guidelines provide guidance how such analysis should be carried out.

Procedure
The draft Guidelines will be published on 14 September in the Official Journal in all official languages. The English, French and German language versions are already available at:

http://ec.europa.eu/comm/competition/antitrust/legislation/maritime/

The Commission invites all interested parties to send their comments on the draft Guidelines no later than 8 weeks after the publication in the Official Journal by e-mail to:
COMP-MARITIME-GUIDELINES@ec.europa.eu
Or in writing to:
European Commission
Competition Directorate-General
Unit F1 – Antitrust - Transport and Post
Maritime Guidelines

B-1049 Brussels

After the eight week public consultation period, Member States’ views will be sought in the Advisory Committee. If necessary, the Commission may revisit the text before final adoption of the Guidelines due for adoption by the Commission no later than October 2008.


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