Regulators from Asia, the US and Europe have held the fifth biennial meeting to discuss the global competition issues concerning the maritime industry, including issues that have occurred since the start of the pandemic in 2020.

Discussions for this year’s event focused on the service disruptions in ocean supply chains, including the identification of obstructions to the free flow of cargo, on the ocean and inland connections.

Regulators looked at what actions had already been taken to mitigate the impact of the pandemic on supply chains, and the relative success or failure of them, as well as joint solutions to the critical trade links. In particular, there was a focus on increasing “resilience and smooth operations” within supply chains.

The group also discussed the substantial price increases over the past year within the container shipping sector. A European Commission spokesperson told The Loadstar: “It has to be noted that causes of the price hikes and service issues are multi-faceted, and not necessarily entirely similar across the world.

“In markets that are heavily intertwined, common shared actions would appear as the most appropriate responses. Fighting congestion on the seaside and landside would, in particular, appear relevant.”

The EC said that it is in contact with other agencies and market participants in an effort to “fully understand the current circumstances and identify any scope for intervention that can facilitate a return to normal operations.

“The Commission has not at this stage received evidence or identified anti-competitive behaviour from shipping alliances in relation to these price hikes, but will continue its close monitoring of the sector.”

Hosted by Europe on this occasion, Europe’s delegation was led by Henrik Mørch, the director for transport, post, and other services, DG Competition, while China’s delegation was led by Li Tianbi, director general of the Water Transport Bureau, Ministry of Transportation.. The US delegation included Rebecca Dye, Michael Khouri, and Carl Bentzel from the Federal Maritime Commission.

In an FMC statement, the commissioners agreed that: “The performance of ocean carriers in meeting historic demand for their services and the unusually high costs to move ocean containers are of interest and concern to regulators, legislators, and the public globally.”

The FMC said that the discussions at the tripartite meeting “provided key competition authorities responsible for the oversight of the container shipping industry the opportunity to share information about what their respective monitoring and enforcement regimes are observing in the marketplace and compare conclusions about carrier behaviour.”

The next meeting of the Global Regulatory Summit will be in Beijing in 2023.

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