News 24 reports that the Competition Commission on Wednesday conducted a search and seizure operation at the premises of six cargo shipping companies operating in the Western Cape and KwaZulu Natal (KZN) on suspicion of collusion and rate fixing, the body said in a statement.
“The Commission has reasonable grounds to suspect that Hamburg Sud South Africa, Maersk South Africa, Safmarine, Mediterranean Shipping Company, Pacific International Line South Africa and CMA CGM Shipping Agencies South Africa have engaged in collusive practices,” the Commission said.
The companies’ practices aimed to among other things fix the incremental rates for the shipment of cargo from Asia to South Africa, which was in contravention of the Competition Act.
According to the Commission, the search and seizure operation is conducted as part of an ongoing investigation which was initiated by the Commission based on information from a member of the public.
The companies under investigation transport cargo for import and export purposes across the globe, including South Africa. They use large metal containers as packaging crates and in-transit warehouses to store and transport general cargo such as frozen foods, garments and footwear.
The customers of these companies are mainly clearing and freight forward agents.
“South Africa is a strategic hub for the trade of goods in and out of the Southern African region. Any cartel by shipping liners in this region results in inflated prices for cargo transportation,” said Tembinkosi Bonakele, commissioner of the Competition Commission.
“Cartels of this nature increase the costs of trading in the region and render the region uncompetitive in the world markets. Such cartels have the effect of significantly derailing the economic growth of the region.”
Reuters reported that Maersk and MSC confirmed the raids and said they were cooperating with authorities. The other companies did not respond to Reuters’ requests for immediate comment.
“The fact that the SACC carries out such inspections does not mean that a company has engaged in anti-competitive behaviour,” Maersk said.
EU antitrust regulators in July accepted an offer from Maersk and 13 competitors to change their pricing practices in order to stave off possible fines. Source: News24