Members of the European Liner Affairs Association (ELAA) have finalized their Proposal to the European Commission on how the liner shipping industry should be regulated in Europe in the event that Regulation 4056/86 is abolished. This is perhaps the most significant step yet in the long process of the Commission’s review of the Regulation, which has to date exempted liner shipping conferences from the full application of antitrust legislation.

The ELAA has lodged its Proposal with the Commission and hopes that this, together with its on-going discussions with all industry parties, as well as the Commission and its services, will result in the publication of firm and workable Guidelines by the Commission next year.

In announcing details of the ELAA Proposal, Chris Bourne, Executive Director of ELAA commented, ‘It is important that all of us in the industry, carriers, shippers and regulators remember that we have a crucial responsibility to ensure this vital industry has an effective flexible regulatory system capable of coping with the future demands of the global economy.’

The ELAA has been proactive throughout the Commission’s review period and feels it has now formulated a framework for information gathering and communication between and among service providers and consumers that satisfies the needs of all parties. Bourne continued, ‘Brussels has challenged us to review the way we organise our business today and, in particular the way in which we communicate within the industry. The liner shipping industry has taken this opportunity to update the manner in which we do business, which should be based on shared knowledge. This outlook will be critical to the future functioning of a highly efficient, modern and transparent liner industry.’ The most salient points in the ELAA Proposal are:

  • The establishment of a port-to-port aggregated volume database, based on figures supplied by the carriers to an independent data service;
  • Provision for an industry supply and demand forecast produced with the help of an independent expert;
  • Acknowledgement of the need to improve industry-wide consultation; this would be organized by a Liner Shipping Association. This system will include carrier discussions as well as consultations with other industry stakeholders. The objective is to improve our collective understanding of the trends in our business. We must also consider the requirements of our customers as represented by shippers’ organizations;
  • Establishment of a simple aggregated price index by trade direction;
  • Publication of information from the public domain, which will increase the transparency of our costs such as bunkering, canal dues, port charges and currency exchange rate exposure;
  • The absolute necessity for all the information generated being made available to the general public and the benefit of all industry stakeholders, carriers, shippers, freight forwarders, port authorities, governments and others.
  • In putting forward this Revised Proposal the ELAA wishes to emphasise three critical points: its membership is united in its agreement over the details outlined; it is adamant that without these tools it will be impossible to provide stable and reliable liner shipping services that will continue to make possible development of the global economy and that it remains committed to an open meaningful dialogue with all parties concerned in the debate.