The European Commission has chosen to keep the Regulation that provides a specific exemption for international maritime transport alliances from EU antitrust regulations.
The Regulation in question (436/2020) outlines the conditions these agreements must adhere to to align with European standards. This regulation addresses issues such as the allocation of space on ships, adjusting capacity based on demand, and joint operation of port terminals.
After reviewing the situation, the Commission has determined that this Regulation no longer promotes competition in the maritime sector.
This decision comes after a review initiated in August 2022 to assess the effectiveness of this rule. According to a report, due to the limited number and nature of alliances covered by the Regulation, it offers minimal cost savings for companies. It has a lesser impact on their collaborative decisions.
In the past, the Commission argued that maritime transport services, especially container shipping, accounted for a significant portion of maritime transport to European ports. Thus, their competitiveness was vital for the EU economy.
However, according to Didier Reynders, the Commission’s Commissioner for Competition, changes such as the merger of transport companies and global alliances have reshaped the industry, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic. Given the current market conditions, he concluded that a specific exemption for these companies is no longer appropriate.
Therefore, from April 25, 2024, a specific Regulation will no longer protect agreements between maritime transport companies. Instead, companies must ensure they comply with the provisions of the EU Treaty, using the Horizontal Guidelines and the General Exemption Regulation, applicable to all industries.