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Ocean car carriers face FMC class action

WASHINGTON, DC: January 13, 2016. The U.S. Federal Maritime Commission (FMC) has received a class action complaint from Cargo Agents, Inc., International Transport Management, Corp., RCL Agencies, Inc. and others, claiming ocean car carriers have violated provisions of the 1984 Shipping Act by conspiring to fix prices on services to and from the United States.

The companies cited in the FMC complaint include: NYK Line, Mitsui O.S.K, World Logistics Service, “K” Line America, Eukor Car Carriers, Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics Americas, CSAV Agency, Hoegh Autoliners, Alliance Navigation (Autotrans) and Nissan Motor Car Carrier.

ULSAN UKORThe freight agents allege the carriers ‘‘conspired to allocate customers and markets, to rig bids, to restrict supply, and otherwise to raise, fix, stabilize, or maintain prices for Vehicle Carrier Services for shipment to and from the United States, pursuant to agreements between and among them that were not filed with the Federal Maritime Commission . . . and that otherwise violated the Shipping Act and regulations promulgated thereunder.’’

Cargo Agents Inc. and its peers say they want the FMC to investigate their complaint and after due process find the carriers have violated the relevant parts of the Shipping Act; pay the agents appropriate damages and costs “up to double their proven actual injury” and agree to “cease and desist” from such alleged practices in the future.

FMC secretary Karen Gregory said the filing had been assigned to an administrative law judge with the expectation of an initial decision by January 6, 2017 and a final decision by July 20, 2017.

Last year the U.S. Department of Justice fined Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK Line) US$59.4 million for price-fixing car carrying services to and from the United States. Earlier, CSAV had been fined US$8.9 million and K-Line US$67.7 million for similar behavior.

In December 2015, China’s National Development and Reform Commission (NRDC) fined Eukor Car Carriers, one of the companies mentioned in the current FMC complaint, US$44 million for “causing restriction on competition in the Chinese market”.

Commenting on the decision, president and CEO of Eukor Craig Jasienski said: “This is a regrettable and unfortunate situation. We are a proponent of fair and open competition and must adhere to the applicable laws in our operation. We have taken the investigation very seriously and cooperated fully with the NDRC throughout the process. We are glad to see the investigation come to an end, so we can move forward, and continue our investment and operation in the Chinese market to achieve success. We will do everything possible to avoid similar situations going forward.”

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