03 May 2024


25 April 2024 marked the end of the Consortia Block Exemption Regulation (CBER), under which shipping lines were exempted from competition rules when entering consortia under a certain market threshold. From this date, cooperation agreements between carriers fall under the general competition rules of Article 101(3) of the Treaty of the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU).

The decision was taken by the European Commission in October 2023 following an evaluation process that started in August 2022. CLECAT was a long-standing advocate of the repeal of this sector-specific exemption regime, arguing that the CBER was no longer fit for purpose as it does not fulfil the criteria of effectiveness, efficiency and EU added value anymore. We also found that the CBER provided excessive scope for unintended co-operations, far beyond those necessary for the operation of vessel sharing agreements. CLECAT also expressed concern on the continued availability of the Block Exemption to parts of the liner shipping industry that is rapidly diversifying into other modes and supply chain functions creating market distortions in the overall logistics market.

The end of the CBER does not prevent shipping lines from entering into cooperation agreements. Carriers operating to or from the EU will need to assess the compatibility of their agreements with general EU antitrust rules based on the extensive guidance provided in the Horizontal Block Exemption Regulation and Specialisation Block Exemption Regulation.

CLECAT hopes that the end of the CBER will trigger an effective oversight of cooperation agreements from competition authorities, enhancing the accountability of shipping lines and ensuring that dominance is prevented, and competition remains healthy.