The Asian Shippers’ Council this week released notes from its annual conference earlier this month in Hong Kong.
The council, which represents shipper groups throughout the region, continued its offensive on liner shipping exemptions, which it says unduly burden Asia’s shippers through higher freight rates and surcharges.
“Maritime regulatory reform in Asia has gained added urgency,” ASC said. “Pushed to show profits even in this harsh environment, shipping lines are increasingly setting their sights on Asia, the region with the best growth potential. The cartels, while not visible, are active throughout the region. With no maritime regulatory oversight, they can operate with impunity, keeping rates and surcharges at unacceptable levels.”
ASC did however point to a potential bright spot in New Zealand.
“Recent developments in New Zealand have given us reasons to believe that the tide may be changing in our favor,” the council said. “Following a review of the country’s international freight transport services, the New Zealand Productivity Commission in April recommended repeal of current exemptions for shipping companies from the Commerce Act. We understand the government has accepted the recommendation and is now investigating interim proposals to remove antitrust immunity for liner conferences. We believe New Zealand’s decision would have far reaching consequences, creating pressure for reform elsewhere in the region.”
ASC also took carriers operating in Asia to task for pushing up rates during times of mediocre demand growth.
“At a time of slowing growth in Asia and the U.S., gross overcapacity and falling fleet utilization, shipping lines are talking up and trying to force through steep freight increases,” the memo said. “In September, the Transpacific Stabilization Agreement (TSA) proposed a hefty rate hike of $800 to $1,200 per FEU starting in mid-October for all new and renewed contracts.
"We, together with our counterparts in the Europe and the U.S., are monitoring the situation, especially with recurrent talk about capacity management. If the capacity management is undertaken by lines individually, there is little we can do about it. But we have reasons to believe shipping lines are collectively reducing ship supply to push up freight rates, which is in direct contravention of the European Union anti-trust regulations,” the council said. - Eric Johnson