EU Watchdogs Raid Maersk and Other Liner Shippers

European Union regulators raided several liner shipping companies on Tuesday, including Danish group A.P. Moller-Maersk, on suspicion of price fixing, the European Commission and Maersk said.

“The commission has reason to believe that the companies concerned may have violated the antitrust rules that prohibit cartels and restrictive business practices and/or abuse of a dominant market position,” the EU executive said.

The commission, which can fine companies up to 10 per cent of their global revenues for breaching EU rules, did not identify the companies raided.

A.P. Moller-Maersk, which owns the world’s biggest container shipping company, Maersk Line, said its practices were in compliance with EU competition legislation and it would co-operate fully with the commission to investigate the matter.

“We can confirm that today the European Commission carried out an unannounced inspection in our offices,” Christian Kledal, head of A.P. Moller-Maersk’s legal department, said in a statement.

The commission was checking for any infringement of European competition law related to liner shipping, Kledal said.

“The commission has stated that it is interested in possible co-ordination of prices and/or liner transport capacity to and from the EU or the EEA,” Kledal said.

Maersk, which has about 15 per cent of the global container shipping market, did not say which other liner shipping companies were under suspicion of co-operating with it.

“Furthermore, the EU Commission is investigating whether there is abuse of dominant position on the market,” Kledal said.

The commission’s probe covers the period from 2008, when liner shipping conferences were banned, to the present, Maersk’s spokesman Michael Storgaard said.

Liner shipping was earlier organized in groups called “liner conferences,” which met to discuss market conditions, freight rates and other common concerns under a block exemption from European competition rules.

But the European Union decided in 2006 to ban the practice as against competition rules and the ban took effect in 2008.

Maersk’s main European competitors in liner shipping are privately held Switzerland-based Mediterranean Shipping Company, privately owned French group CMA CGM and German company Hapag-Lloyd, which is half-owned by TUI AG.

Its main Asian container shipping rivals, which also operate to and from Europe, include Taiwan’s Evergreen Marine, China’s COSCO and China Shipping Container Lines, Singapore’s Neptune Orient Lines and Korea’s Hanjin Shipping.

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