Beginning with Regulation 870/95, the European Commission has adopted a series of consortia block exemption regulations (BERs), each effective for a period of five years.
These consortia are forms of operational co-operation between liner shipping companies with a view to providing a joint maritime cargo transport service.
The companies transport cargo, mostly by container, on a regular basis and on the basis of advertised timetables to ports on a particular geographic route. The co-operation within a liner shipping consortium must however be limited to operational co-operation.
In the main, this involves sharing space on their respective vessels but the companies concerned must market and price their services individually.
The latest BER under which this system operates is provided by Regulation 906/2009, which entered into force on 26 April 2010 and applies until 25 April 2015.
The Commission acknowledges, through this regulation, that although the liner consortia system could normally be seen to breach EU competition rules, this should be allowed because it helps to improve the productivity and quality of liner shipping services.
The system also helps to promote technical and economic progress by facilitating and encouraging greater utilisation of containers and more efficient use of vessel capacity.
The Commission has now published a draft regulation which, if adopted, will provide for a new BER to run from 25 April 2015 to 25 April 2020.
Interested parties are invited to submit comments on this draft text before 27 March 2013 by emailing the Commission at COMP-GREFFE-ANTITRUST@ec.europa.eu.