Diederik Schrijvershof has been interviewed by the leading Dutch financial newspaper het Financieele Dagblad about the dramatic price increase in the global container shipping industry. Depending on the routes, the prices of container shipping services are four times to as much as seven times higher than last year’s. A price surge like that gives rise to the suspicion of a cartel among shipping companies. The shipping companies, however, argue that the increased prices are the result of the corona pandemic, which has heavily disturbed logistics. Particularly in US ports, congestion occurs. For this reason, President Biden signed a presidential decree mid July 2021 in an attempt to boost the competition between shipping companies. In the decree, watchdog Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) is ordered to take robust action against shipping companies that charge American exporters high prices. In the European Union, such measures have not been taken as of yet. Nonetheless, the question arises whether the European Commission should investigate the situation and should perhaps intervene on the basis of competition rules. On this topic, the Financieele Dagblad reports in the article Who will restrain shipping rates:
“Diederik Schrijvershof, competition lawyer at Maverick Advocaten, mentions another aspect. ‘In the EU, oligopolies or the presence of market power as such are not prohibited. The point is that such power may not be abused. In the US, on the other hand, it can already be a problem if one enterprise unilaterally attempts to monopolize and unlawfully gain a position of power.
While usually the European Commission acts on the basis of a complaint the Commission can also decide ex officio to take action, Schrijvershof adds. However, its capacity is limited and the competition authority needs to prioritise. Moreover: the EU permits cooperation.”
“Last year, Vestager decided to extend an exception to the competition rules. Shipping companies may cooperate in alliances for four more years, which comes down to the sharing of cargo space. Schrijvershof: ‘Then it’s about demonstrating that the shipping companies violate the conditions of the exception to the competition rules.’”
The full article can be found here.