The offices of some of the world’s largest shipping companies, including NYK Line, Mitsui OSK Lines, K-Line. Eukor Car Carriers and WWL, have been raided by the Japan Fair Trade Commission for allegedly violating the antitrust law in transporting vehicles and other exports. The companies control about 70% of the global market for the ocean transport of cars.

The forwarders are under suspicion of being involved in a cartel to coordinate price hikes for transporting vehicles and other cargo from Japan to Europe, the US and other Asian markets according to reports in the maritime press.

NYK, MOL, Eukor or K-Line have not released statements and the Japan Fair Trade Commission has declined to comment. However, according to WWL the Commission “commenced an inquiry” at its offices in Tokyo as part of an investigation related to the Japan Anti Monopoly Act.

WWL has subsequently received requests for information from the European Commission, from US federal authorities and the Competition Bureau Canada.

“WWL is fully co-operating with investigators and is working to respond to the requests for information,” said the company in a statement.

It went onto state that the purpose of the requests was to ascertain whether there is evidence of any infringement of competition law related to possible price cooperation between carriers and allocation of customers.

“As a commercial carrier, the company fell within the scope of the competition authorities’ investigation,” stated WWL. “We have no further details about the nature of the investigation, but are willingly cooperating with the authorities.”

WWL added that the inspections did not mean that the companies involved have engaged in anti-competitive behaviour nor did it prejudge the outcome of the investigation itself.