The consortia block exemption Regulation 823/2000 currently allows shipping lines to enter into cooperation for the purpose of providing a joint service (so-called "consortia"). The new draft Regulation proposes to continue to allow for such co-operation within a new legislative and economic environment. Interested parties are invited to make their views known in the public consultation before 21st November 2008. The Commission will then consult Member States in 2009 before adopting the final block exemption Regulation in good time before the current Regulation expires in April 2010.
A consortium is a grouping of shipping lines which co-operate to provide joint maritime cargo transport services. Such agreements usually allow shipping lines to rationalize 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 service quality.
In 2007 the Commission started reviewing the consortia block exemption Regulation as the current one will expire on 25 April 2010. The proposed changes take into account the necessary amendments due to the repeal of the liner conference block exemption Regulation in 2006.
They also aim at better reflecting the current market practice through a broader definition of a consortium and by aggregating, under certain circumstances, the market shares of inter-linked consortia. 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% should benefit from the exemption.
In 2003 the Commission launched a comprehensive revision of the competition rules that apply to maritime transport. This revision led the Council of the EU in 2006 to repeal the exemption from EU competition rules for liner shipping conferences.
The review of the consortia block exemption Regulation will complete the reform of the competition rules that apply to maritime transport services.
The Commission invites interested parties to submit their observations on the Draft Block Exemption Regulation before 21 November 2008