The supervisory body of Brazil's competition authority, CADE, has begun assessing an investigation into the alleged existence of an international cartel operating in the transport of finished vehicles by sea. Those under investigation are CSAV, Eukor, Grimaldi Group, Höegh Autoliners, K Line, Mitsui OSK (MOL), NYK, Nissan Motor Car Carriers and Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics.
According to CADE, there is solid evidence to suggest that anti-competitive practices were in place and did involve some of the world's best-known ro-ro operators. In essence, each shipping line was assigned its own clients with the aim of not only maintaining the initial marketing position it reached with its main customers, but also retaining or even boosting prices, whilst acting in concert to oppose any requests to reduce transport costs.
Although investigations so far have looked at such practices within Brazil, they have also been widened to take into South America in general, where actions taken could also impact on the Brazilian market. So, any routes into or out of Brazil involving either import-export traffic have been looked into.
CADE notes that up to 80 individuals working for those companies that were investigated were involved; anti-competitive practices being discussed in face-to-face meetings, by telephone and also via email.
Anti-competitive practices have been traced back as far as 1978, although the alleged existing cartel was effectively set up from 2000, being in place up to 2012, which is when the Anti-Monopoly division of the US Department of Justice, the European Commission and Japanese anti-trust authorities began to seriously look into exactly what was going on at some of the shipping lines involved.
On 25 November 2015, CADE reached an agreement with CSAV, NYK, K Line and 13 employees of these businesses, which involved fines of $7.2m in return for administrative proceedings being dropped against those concerned. These fines will be paid to the Brazilian Ministry of Justice.
CADE is now discussing what further fines or sanctions should be levied against other shipping lines and individuals concerned.
Last week the US Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) announced it had collected $520,000 in civil penalty payments from five ocean carriers following investigations into unfair practices.