The International Chamber of Shipping (ICS) has submitted comments on behalf of the global shipping industry to a comprehensive competition policy review being conducted by the Australian Government. The ICS comments support the maintenance of important antitrust exemptions that currently apply to international maritime transport.
The provisions under Part X of Australia’s Competition and Consumer Act currently permit container shipping lines to organize consortia and other cooperative arrangements, and have helped to ensure that international shipping markets function smoothly, notwithstanding their cyclical and highly volatile nature. However, these arrangements are now subject to a ‘root and branch’ review of Australia’s competition regulations.
ICS has highlighted that Australia’s current treatment of international shipping is consistent with the competition regimes applied by Australia’s major trading partners, including nations in the Asia Pacific whose regimes have also recently been subject to review.
ICS acknowledges the intention of the Australian Government in wishing to examine carefully practices that might distort competition. However, ICS believes that it remains appropriate for exemptions to apply to certain carrier agreements which yield net benefits to shippers, exporters and consumers in Australia, as well as to the economy of Australia as a whole.
ICS suggests that whatever Australia decides should at least be consistent with the APEC Guidelines Related to Liner Shipping adopted by the APEC member economies in June 2011, in Brisbane. ICS also notes that the European Commission has recently decided to extend the block exemption from competition rules that applies to liner shipping consortia until at least 2020.