13 October 2023


The European Commission has decided not to extend the EU legal framework which exempts liner shipping consortia from EU antitrust rules (Consortia Block Exemption Regulation or ‘CBER'). The Commission has concluded that the CBER no longer promotes competition in the shipping sector and therefore it will let it expire on 25 April 2024.

The decision follows a review process launched in August 2022, aimed at gathering evidence on the functioning of the CBER since 2020, in view of its expiry on 25 April 2024. The CBER allows shipping lines, under certain conditions, to enter into cooperation agreements to provide joint cargo transport services, also known as ‘consortia'.

Prior to its evaluation, as part of its sectoral monitoring activities, the Commission had regular exchanges with market participants as well as with competition and regulatory authorities in Europe, the US and other jurisdictions, on the challenges faced by the shipping sector. It also: (i) sent questionnaires to carriers on the effects of the coronavirus pandemic on their operations and on the maritime supply chain; and (ii) commissioned an independent fact-finding study.

The Commission has published its Staff Working Document summarising the findings of its evaluation. Overall, the evidence collected from the stakeholders points towards the low or limited effectiveness and efficiency of the CBER throughout the 2020-2023 period.  Given the small number and profile of consortia falling within the scope of the CBER, the CBER brings limited compliance cost savings to carriers and plays a secondary role in carriers' decision to cooperate. Furthermore, over the evaluation period, the CBER was no longer enabling smaller carriers to cooperate among each other and offer alternative services in competition with larger carriers.