The European Commission (EC) is mulling a review to the Consortia Block Exemption Regulation (CBER) regulating vessel sharing, a move that has prompted furious reactions across carriers and shippers.
The review is taking place ahead of the CBER’s expiration in April 2024.
The World Shipping Council (WSC), the International Chamber of Shipping (ICS), and the Asian Shipowners’ Association (ASA) have submitted input to the EC, asking the Commission to uphold the legislation as it contributes to the EU policy goals of reducing transport emissions, increasing competitiveness, and improving efficiency to reduce costs.
Vessel sharing is an operational measure that enables carriers to use ships more efficiently whilst continuing to compete on price and other commercial terms.
Vessel sharing expands the range of destinations and services available to customers and reduces empty space onboard ships, lowering emissions.
According to the WSC, the CBER facilitates vessel sharing by providing a sector-specific legal framework.
On top of that, carriers argued that the Commission’s evaluation was taking place during unprecedented times that have seen significant bottlenecks and congestion – none of which, they claim, was caused by shipping lines.
“The frustration that shippers have understandably experienced from service delays and increased cost has been channelled towards carriers, their vessel sharing arrangements, and the regulatory tools which facilitate such arrangements, including the CBER,” said John Butler, President & CEO of World Shipping Council.
“But data shows and regulators concur that the problems were caused by factors outside carriers’ control and not by vessel sharing.”
Shippers on their end have submitted their instances to the EC, strongly vouching for a substantial review of the CBER.
The European Shippers’ Council, CLECAT, FEPORT, Global Shippers’ Forum (GSF) and more submitted a letter on 3 October arguing that the regulation has allowed carriers to benefit from “important market developments” since the last renewal in 2020.
Shipping associations are claiming carriers have unfairly profited owing to recent disruptions, whilst thousands of exporters and importers lost money because of rates inflation and unreliable scheduling.
“As consumers or suppliers to the container shipping sector, we have lost confidence that the benefits of the Block Exemption are being fairly shared and that it is meeting its intended purpose,” reads the joint letter.
“The experiences, frustrations, and dissatisfaction of large swathes of European business with the behaviour of global shipping lines demands a change in approach as a means of restoring trust and confidence in the container shipping industry, which is vital to the economies of member states and meeting the needs of European consumers and businesses.”