A group of European maritime industry associations has sent a stern letter to the European Commission to express their concerns over another multi-year extension to the exemption to rules preventing joint negotiations
After 18 months of review and discussions, the Commission decided to extend Consortia Block Exemption Regulation (CBER) for another four years, triggering fears container ship operators will jointly negotiate terminal fees, seafarer wages and marine service contracts.
European Tugowners’ Association, European Shippers’ Council, European Transport Workers’ Federation, the European Association for Forwarding, Transport, Logistics and Customs Services and Federation of European Private Port Companies and Terminals jointly wrote the letter.
This was sent to European Commission president Ursula Von der Leyen to express their strong disapproval of the decision to prolong CBER for another four years without any changes.
They stress the importance of European supply chains for free-flowing trade, of which harbour and escort tugs are vital components. This is particularly true during the coronavirus pandemic, now centred on Europe.
“It is therefore with regret that the value of the stakeholders in the European supply chains has not been fully recognised in the review process of the CBER,” said the associations in the letter.
They had jointly called for a temporary one-year CBER extension to allow for a thorough, fair and more balanced review of the exemption to take into account other sources of data than those provided by the representatives of the liner shipping industry.
“We have underlined that, in light of the important changes in the market (in view of consolidation, vertical integration and digitalisation) over the last five years, it was important to protect the interests of the EU logistics and supply chains,” said the associations.
“The current legal framework for liner shipping consortia has become obsolete given that most of the carriers operate in alliances and that market concentration is increasing.”
European Commission started reviewing CBER at the end of 2018. During this process, the associations, with the International Transport Forum, demonstrated how benefits of the regulation to European customers were not achieved.
These associations fear container ship consortia will impact on port services if the Commission does not clarify what is not allowed under CBER.
“Instead, the Commission (as the competition regulator) has assessed the workings of the CBER only from the perspective of carriers,” the associations said in the letter.
“There has been no explicit assessment against the experiences and expectations of customers of the services provided by consortia, other service providers and transport workers.”
These associations will look for new dialogue with the Commission after the end of the current Covid-19 crisis to get clarifications and shorten the exemption period.
“We hope that in the future, the European Commission will, for the sake of equality of treatment, listen more carefully to the users and service providers of the liner shipping companies,” said the associations.
In December 2019, container ship operators welcomed the Commission’s four-year extension to CBER for the financial wellbeing of the liner sector.