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Container shipping lines ordered to testify in U.S. sector probe

1 maersk containers

The U.S. Justice Department has ordered top executives from several container shipping lines to testify in an antitrust investigation over practices by an industry that is the backbone of world trade, the companies said on Wednesday.

The world's biggest container group, Denmark's A.P. Moller-Maersk (MAERSKb.CO), together with second largest line MSC of Switzerland, Germany's Hapag Lloyd (HLAG.DE), Taiwan-based Evergreen and Hong Kong-based Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) said their executives were among those who had been subpoenaed.

None offered details on what exactly was being sought by the U.S. authorities, although OOCL said its subpoena called for the production of documents.

The subpoenas were issued during a meeting of top container shipping executives last week in San Francisco. They are members of the International Council of Containership Operators, commonly known as the Box Club.

"We can confirm that we conducted an operation," an FBI spokesman in San Francisco told Reuters on Wednesday. "It is part of an ongoing investigation and we are unable to release any additional details at this point."

The U.S. Department of Justice declined to comment.

Container lines, which transport everything from TVs to bananas, have tried to save money by setting up alliances to pool their ships' sailing schedules and port calls. Critics say this can lead to reduced services and increased prices for customers.

The U.S. inquiry follows ones by other jurisdictions including South Africa and the European Union. These have examined pricing practices by the sector, which is still struggling with its worst slump and has seen companies going to the wall due to a glut of ships and sluggish global economic growth.

Such investigations could result in large fines at a time when the firms are still struggling to cut costs.

In July last year, EU anti-trust regulators accepted an offer from Maersk and 13 competitors to change their pricing practices in order to stave off possible fines.

Previous inquiries by the U.S. Justice Department had looked into price fixing within the shipping industry, which has resulted indictments of various executives.

Sydbank analyst Morten Imsgard said such investigations had become "almost everyday life" in the shipping industry and lines had to take them seriously, given the risk of fines.

"What can be severe is that every time authorities dig into this it might result in tighter regulation," Imsgard said. "The industry needs co-operation and alliances. So, if a tightening of the possibilities to form partnerships across the industry makes it harder to consolidate, it will be more difficult to get a more profitable industry."

Shares in Hapag dropped 6 percent to 28.5 euros earlier on Wednesday, while Moller-Maersk shares declined 3 percent to 11,390 Danish crowns.

South Korea's Hanjin Shipping was declared bankrupt in February after it collapsed last year, sending sent shockwaves through the container industry.

In September South African authorities raided some of the world’s biggest container lines on suspicion of colluding to inflate rates on shipping routes.

GLOBAL TRADE

The United States is concerned that the proposed alliances of several major companies, covering about 45 percent of all global shipping capacity, could lead to anti-competitive behavior.

This could slow global trade as about 90 percent of the world's traded goods by volume and over 60 percent by value - $4 trillion - is transported by sea on container ships. The rest is on other vessels such as oil or gas tankers.

Spokesmen for Maersk Line and Hapag Lloyd said that the subpoenas did not set out any specific allegations, adding that the companies would fully cooperate with authorities.

MSC said several lines including itself received subpoenas last week from the Department of Justice, declining further comment at this stage "due to the ongoing nature of the investigation".

OOCL and Evergreen also confirmed they were involved.

"OOCL has received a subpoena from the Department of Justice Antitrust Division calling for the production of documents. OOCL intends to comply fully with the subpoena," said Stephen Ng, OOCL Director of Trades.

The Evergreen spokesman said: "We are cooperating with the authorities in this matter. Evergreen's policy is to conduct business in compliance with applicable competition laws.”

The Hapag Lloyd spokesman said its planned merger with United Arab Shipping Company would not be affected by the inquiry.

ALLIANCES IN THE SPOTLIGHT

The Justice Department has raised concerns over possible anti-competitive behavior by container shippers with the U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) after shippers sought approval to form the Ocean and THE alliances.

The proposed Ocean Alliance involves CMA CGM with APL, China Cosco Shipping, Evergreen and Orient Overseas Container Lines while THE alliance is planned between Hapag Lloyd-UASC, Yang Ming Marine, Mitsui OSK Lines, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha and NYK Lines.

In a letter to the FMC in September, Renata Hesse, acting assistant attorney general in the Justice Department's antitrust division, urged it to prohibit or insist on changes to the Ocean Alliance agreement.

"The parties to the proposed agreement are seeking to undertake joint activities that are likely to reduce competition and also may be inconsistent" with the U.S. shipping act, Hesse said in the letter, which was published on the Justice Department website.

The Hong Kong Shippers' Council, which represents manufacturers and exporters, said it welcomed the inquiry. "We look forward to hearing their result,” chairman Willy Lin said.

Source: reuters.com

18 Apr 2017 17:57
The Grimaldi Group extends its services to Mexico

The Grimaldi Group announces an important enhancement of its overseas maritime services: a new direct service to Mexico, dedicated to the transport of cars, rolling freight and project cargo has been recently launched.
The link is an upgrade of a regular service between the Mediterranean and North America, already performed by the Group with great success since 2015. The new extended service connects the Italian ports of Civitavecchia and Savona and the Turkish port of Gemlik with the North American ports of Halifax (Canada), [ ... ]

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15 Apr 2017 19:35
The 4th Tweed Run will take place in Spetses!

The stylish bike ride that was warmly welcomed in the most important cities of the world as well in Spetses, comes for the fourth time on 21-23rd of April at the car-free, cosmopolitan island of the Saronic Gulf.
The Tweed Run is a carefree bike ride with vintage bikes and atmosphere of a bygone era, accompanied by stylish presences and stops for tea and picnics.
The 4th Tweed Run is looking forward to welcoming you and enjoy every moment of the 4th Tweed Run!

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14 Apr 2017 20:30
Shipping Company of the Year Award for the Grimaldi Group

The Italian group receives the prestigious recognition during the North America Automotive Global Awards

Naples, 10th April 2017 – In the majestic surroundings of the Ritz-Carlton Hotel in New Orleans, last 5th April the Grimaldi Group received the Shipping Company of the Year award. The ceremony was held during the third edition of the North America Automotive Global Awards, an event organized by Three6Zero, an editorial group specialised in the automotive industry with various publications distributed in America, Asia, [ ... ]

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14 Apr 2017 16:13
MedCruise Ports head to China

As part of MedCruise marketing strategy aiming to promote the Mediterranean as the most popular cruise destination among Asian cruisers, MedCruise is attending this year ITB China 2017: http://www.itb-china.com/ event.

ITB China to be held 10-12 May in Shanghai is a travel trade show exclusively focused on the Chinese Travel Market. The three day event gathers international destinations, service and travel technology providers in Shanghai connecting them with handpicked Chinese buyers. MedCruise will be represented by Maria [ ... ]

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10 Apr 2017 19:33
Chinese Ports Reaching Maximum Capacity

China's ports could reach maximum capacity by early June as stockpiles iron ore build pressure on facilities to create more storage space – resulting in buildings being demolished to create larger ones, trading sources have told Reuters.

The current volume of iron ore in China equates to about 95 million tonnes of steel — enough to build 12,960 replicas of the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

This is a result of the marketplace jumping 15.3% in January-February as a price rally last year extended into 2017.

However, imported ore [ ... ]

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06 Apr 2017 19:57
George Marinakis at the opening of the

During the official opening of the "50th International Andros Regatta”, we met Mr. Marinakis- the Managing Director of SetelHellas, who gave us a short interview.

Q: There are a lot of discussions around "green shipping" lately, especially after the recent regulatory measures by EU and IMO.Can the maritime industryto be leader in green technology?

A:First of all, I would like to congratulate the organizers for the wonderful evening and wish them good luck.

Now- at the macro scale, the world that we are living today is simply [ ... ]

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05 Apr 2017 14:31
The Grimaldi Group Supplier of the Year 2016 by General Motors

This is the 16th time that the Group has received the award in the last 17 years.

The Grimaldi Group was named a Supplier of the Year by General Motors during its 25th annual Supplier of the Year awards ceremony held Friday, March 31st in Orlando, Florida.

GM recognized 118 of its best suppliers from 15 countries that have consistently exceeded GM’s expectations, created outstanding value or brought new innovations to the company. The announcement represented the most suppliers GM has recognized since debuting the Supplier [ ... ]

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03 Apr 2017 13:51
Cruise ports develop infrastructure to meet new environmental requirements

Cruise ports also aim to develop infrastructure to meet new environmental requirements. To help members achieve this, MedCruise has partnered with the World Association for Waterborne Transport Infrastructure (PIANC). Together, the organisations plan to advance guidelines on the development of cruise port infrastructure and help MedCruise members benefit from the growth of the industry. The first discussions were held at the MedCruise General Assembly in Tenerife last September. Architects often design port facilities according [ ... ]

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