ITF’s Merk renews block exemption debate

ITF’s Merk renews block exemption debate

At the annual conference of the Confetra logistics association held this week in Rome, Olaf Merk, project manager for ports and shipping at the International Transport Forum of the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), spoke once again about the liner consortia block exemption rules (BER) set to expire next April, a topic that has seen him clash with containerlines repeatedly this year.

“There are three options on the table: no renewal, renewal in current form or renewal with modifications,” said Merk, who went on to outline modifications he would like to see to the BER.

The first one deals with transparency. “There is a remarkable lack of information on consortia and their effects. It is not even clear which consortia still fall within the 30% threshold of the regulation. Regulators and stakeholders should have this kind of information,” Merk said.

The second change he would like to see relates to joint negotiation. “Consortia and alliances in the US cannot jointly negotiate with port service providers. A similar provision also makes sense in Europe,” Merk said.

The third recommendation aims at avoiding market distortion in cargo handling and logistics. Merk mentioned the “risk of distortions because of vertical integration of carriers with terminals”. Two options could take care of this, Merk said.

“Restrict coverage of BER to ocean transport or provide similar possibilities to terminal operators or ports,”he suggested.

The fourth and last condition looks at more dialogue. The project manager for ports and shipping at the ITF affirmed: “The 1995 version of the BER included an obligation for liner companies to conduct real and effective consultations with transport users. The idea was to seek solutions on conditions and quality of scheduled maritime transport services offered by the consortium or its members. This should be re-inserted. And not only consultations with transport users but also with ports and terminals,” Merk concluded.

The European Commission is reviewing all the submissions relating to BER at the moment with a decision due in the new year.

Nicola Capuzzo

Nicola is a highly qualified journalist focused on transport economics, logistics and shipping with broad experience in both online and printed media. Specialties: shipping, ship finance, banking, commodities and port economics. He regularly interviews Europe's top shipowner executives for Maritime CEO magazine.

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