Trio braced for fines

Japan’s Fair Trade Commission (JFTC) is preparing to dish out fines to car carrier operators including two of the country’s big three shipowners for breach of antitrust rules.
NYK's 6,500-ceu car carrier

NYK's 6,500-ceu car carrier "Capricornus Leader" (built 2004)

Nippon Yusen Kaisha (NYK), Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha (K Line) and Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics (WWL) have all received letters from the competition authority ordering them to cease and desist non-competitive practices and notifying them of the upcoming penalties.

Though the extent of the fines are yet to be revealed, NYK said it has provided for a JPY 13.5bn ($128.5m) hit in its accounts for the third quarter to 31 December.

WWL, 50% owned by Oslo-listed Wilh. Wilhelmsen, is less pessimistic and says it expects the rap on the knuckles to amount to $33m relating primarily to the Japan-Europe trade.

K Line is keeping its cards close to its chest and gave no indication of the expected penalty.  

All three said they take the matter extremely seriously and are considering their responses to the JFTC’s findings before a final ruling is made in the second quarter.

The fines stem from raids on a group of car carrier owners on 6 September 2012 for suspected price collaboration.

Eukor Car Carriers, owned 40% by Wilh.Wilhelmsen, was initially included in the investigation but has not been named in the draft orders from the JFTC.

Japan's Mitsui OSK Lines (MOL) was also among the five company's whose Tokyo offices were raided, but the company was silent on the matter today.

A slap on the wrist?

As TradeWinds reported at the time of the raids, the participation of so few major operators in the car-carrier business has meant that suspicion of collaboration has never been too far away.

However Japanese competition authorities have a reputation for being lenient when it comes to dishing out punishment for offences compared to their counterparts in the US.

Between them the five owners control around 70% of the global car carrier market.

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