The European Commission announced earlier today that it has decided NOT to extend the sector specific regulation (known as the Consortia Block Exemption Regulation or CBER) which exempts liner shipping consortia from EU antitrust rules, and will therefore let the CBER expire on April 25, 2024.
This decision follows a review process launched in August 2022 that was aimed at gathering evidence on the functioning of the CBER since 2020, which is when the regulation was last reviewed. According to the European Commission, this process revealed that the CBER brings limited compliance cost savings to carriers operating in the EU and plays a secondary role in their decision to cooperate. The review also found that the CBER is no longer enabling smaller carriers to cooperate among each other and offer alternative services in competition with larger carriers.
It is important to note that the expiry of the CBER on April 25, 2024 does NOT mean that cooperation between shipping lines operating in the EU will become unlawful. Rather, it means that that liner shipping vessel sharing agreements will be regulated under the general EU antitrust rules based on the Horizontal Block Exemption Regulation and Specialisation Block Exemption Regulation.
Although this shift to general EU antitrust rules will create a period of uncertainty as carriers adjust to the new legal structure, vessel sharing agreements will remain a legal means for carriers to ensure efficient and sustainable transport for Europe.
We will provide additional details on this decision, including its potential implications for carriers operating in Canada and the U.S., over the next few weeks. In the meantime, additional information on the ruling can be found at this LINK.