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South Korea fined container companies for raising prices

Seoul, Jan 18 (Prensa Latina) South Korean authorities today fined 23 container companies, alleging that they colluded to keep rates high on certain trade routes within Asia over a 15-year period.

$81 million in fines were imposed on lines including HMM, Evergreen, Wan Hai, Cosco, OOCL, Heung-A, SM Line, and Korea Marine Transport Co.

Korea Fair Trade Commission Chairman Joh Sung-wook told a press conference that they will continue to take action against anti-competitive actions.

We hope the sanction will spread the culture of fair competition in the shipping industry and pave the way for its sustainable development, he said.

In 2003, three South Korean liners agreed to set a minimum threshold for rates between South Korea and many Southeast Asian nations.

Prosecutors later found that the cartel was joined by a large number of corporations, both domestic and foreign.

Antitrust authorities around the world have been tracking these phenomena for the past 18 months, particularly to determine whether these consortiums exert too much control over major trade routes.

Earlier this month, the British International Freight Association called on the UK government to investigate “distorted market conditions” within the global container shipping market.

Last summer, a complaint was filed against carriers MSC and Cosco with the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission, alleging that those lines exploited Covid-19 to speculate at the expense of U.S. consumers.

In 2021, container shipping posted its highest earnings ever while at the same time exhibiting the worst schedule reliability in the industry’s history.

Projections suggest that 2022 is on track to surpass last year’s record liner earnings.


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