The Singapore Shipping Association, which includes Asia's largest container shipping lines plus AP Moller-Maersk, has voiced its support for a proposal to extend ocean freight carriers' antitrust immunity in the city state until the end of 2015, according to the Shipping Gazette.
The comments follow a recommendation by the Competition Commission of Singapore (CCS) to extend the antitrust block exemption, due to expire at the end of 2010, for another five years, chiefly on the assumption that removal of the antitrust immunity would prompt ocean carriers to abandon Singapore as a shipping hub. Singapore's Minister of Trade and Industry is to decide on the matter, known as a block exemption order.
"We are very appreciative of the CCS proposal which has taken into consideration Singapore's substantial shipping and port interests into its final evaluation," said SS Teo, president of the association and managing director of Singapore-based liner carrier Pacific International Lines.
"The extension signals that there is no change in Singapore's pro-business environment. Extension of the (block exemption order) will allow Singapore to continue to provide a stable regulatory environment for shipping lines to call and operate out from Singapore."
Opponents to a block antitrust exemption extension are shipper groups based in Singapore and Asia, who have slammed the measure, saying the lack of real competition adversely impacts shippers.
But Mr Teo said: "If shipping lines were operating as price-fixing cartels, they would not have suffered cumulative losses of around US$20 billion during the 2009 economic crisis."
Said the shipping association statement: "The days of shipping cartels' price-fixing are long past. Today's liner shipping agreements are non-binding. Member lines in these cooperative agreements have the full freedom to determine individual freight rates and charges for the carriage of goods in international shipping.
"Furthermore, as the SSA has previously noted, there are no barriers to entry, and individual lines are free to withdraw their membership from any given liner shipping agreement," the statement said.