The Global Shippers’ Forum, which represents regional shippers’ associations around the world, said Wednesday it welcomes proposals by New Zealand to withdraw antitrust immunity for international shipping services.
The GSF and its constituent shipper councils have long fought against liner antitrust exemption on a global basis. The exemption was repealed in Europe on 2008, and carriers are regulated to a degree in the United States, but in Asia, most countries have granted some form or total immunity to liner carriers.
In April, the New Zealand Productivity Commission submitted a report on international freight services to the New Zealand Parliament recommending the withdrawal of antitrust immunity in the shipping industry.
The country’s commerce minister on Sept. 3 asked the New Zealand Parliament Commerce Committee to consider proposals to transition international shipping to a normal competition regime governed by New Zealand’s Commerce Act of 1986.
“It is impossible to treat as credible the continuing demands from the liner shipping operators for the continuation of exemption for price fixing on the ground that they are essential to ensure that international shipping lines continue to provide stable and reliable services to New Zealand’s exporters and importers,” GSF Secretary General Chris Welsh said in the forum’s submission to the Commerce Committee. “Especially as the evidence, as conceded by the International Container Lines Committee (ICLC), is that ‘historic conference agreements no longer operate in New Zealand.’”
The GSF submission noted not all collaborative agreements that do not involve pricing are good for the New Zealand economy, as they can impact on price through capacity restrictions to support higher prices rather than to reduce prices costs by introducing efficiencies.
“There were no risks associated with transitioning to a Commerce Act-only regime as there are sufficient safeguards built into the Act and the bill to provide sufficient flexibility for international shipping lines to collaborate, in order to provide maximum capacity and frequency of services to and from New Zealand,” Welsh added. - Eric Johnson