China fines 8 shipping lines S$88.6 million for price collusion

A crane lifting a shipping container from a truck to load it onto a ship at a port in Qingdao, China, on Oct 13, 2015.
A crane lifting a shipping container from a truck to load it onto a ship at a port in Qingdao, China, on Oct 13, 2015. PHOTO: REUTERS

BEIJING (BLOOMBERG) - China has fined eight shipping lines 407 million yuan (S$88.6 million) in total after finding them responsible for price collusion in the transportation of vehicles and heavy machinery.

Japan's Nippon Yusen KK, Mitsui OSK lines, Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha and Eastern Car Liner, Korea's Eukor Car Carriers, Norway's Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics, Chile's Cia Sud Americana de Vapores and its shipping line were the eight indicted after a year-long investigation, the National Development and Reform Commission said in a statement on its website on Monday (Dec 28). The companies acknowledge wrongdoing, the top Chinese economic planning agency said.

The probe follows similar investigations by the European Union in 2013 and Japan's Fair Trade Commission.

Japanese regulators raided the offices of five shipping lines in 2013 over allegations they had discussed raising rates together for transporting cars, and imposed fines on Nippon Yusen and Kawasaki Kisen in January 2014. AP Moeller-Maersk, CMA CGM and MSC Mediterranean Shipping Co were among companies in the European Union probe.

Eukor will accept the Chinese decision and pay a fine of 284.7 million yuan, the company said in a statement on its website. The company also has implemented a competition law compliance programme and corrective measures including antitrust compliance training, it said.

Nippon Yusen has fully cooperated with the investigation by the Chinese agency and consequently received an immunity from the fine, the Japanese company said in a statement.

A Mitsui OSK spokesman declined to comment. Representatives from Kawasaki Kisen and Eastern Car could not immediately respond to a Bloomberg News request for comment.

Calls to the Shanghai and Hong Kong offices of CSAV group and Wallenius's Asia Pacific media representative Bianca Himmelsbach were not immediately answered.

Mr Rainer Horne, a spokesman for Hapag-Lloyd AG, did not immediately respond to an e-mail sent outside regular German business hours. Hapag-Lloyd agreed last year to buy most of CSAV's assets and become the fourth-largest container shipping company in the world.

The China investigation focused on Mitsui OSK, Kawasaki Kisen and Nippon Yusen because they controlled the bulk of the Chinese market, Bloomberg News reported in July, citing a person familiar with the matter. The person asked not to be identified because the investigation had not been made public then.

In the European investigation, the EU drafted a possible deal with the companies that would spare them any immediate fines, people familiar with the case said.