On 27 February 2014, the European Commission opened a consultation inviting comments on a proposal to extend the validity of the liner shipping consortia block exemption (Regulation 906/2009). Liner shipping consortia are groups of independent liner shipping operators who agree to provide joint maritime cargo transport services to rationalise their operations and minimise costs.

Adopted in September 2009, Regulation 906/2009 replaced an earlier consortia block exemption, Regulation 823/2000, from its expiry on 26 April 2010 (OJ 2009 L256/31).

Regulation 906/2009 introduced a number of simplifications and amendments to the earlier block exemption reflecting current practices in the liner shipping market. It also introduced a reduced market share threshold to bring it into line with the Commission’s approach to other horizontal co-operation agreements.

Regulation 906/2009 has a duration of five years and is due to expire on 25 April 2015. Reviewing its experience in applying the block exemption, the Commission has concluded that the justifications for a block exemption for consortia remain valid and that as the conditions in the industry have not changed substantially, there is no need to substantively change the provisions of the block exemption. In addition, the fact that the exempting legislation has only been in place for a limited period of time make changes inappropriate. In light of this the Commission proposes to extend the period of validity of Regulation 906/2009 by a further five years, expiring on 25 April 2020.

However, the Commission emphasises in its consultation that for those consortia and alliances exceeding the 30% market share threshold set out in the Block Exemption, the Commission will continue to closely monitor market developments and the conduct of those companies to ensure that effective competition remains on the relevant markets.

Interested parties are invited to submit their comments within one month (see OJ 2014 C56/1 and Commission Press Release IP/14/196).