The Asian Shipowners’ Forum has announced its support for the Competition Commission of Singapore’s proposal to extend the block exemption for liner shipping until December 31, 2015.

Currently, liner shipping agreements including conferences, discussion agreements and consortia are exempted from competition laws in the majority of Singapore’s trading partners including the USA, Japan and South Korea.

Yuichi Sonoda, Secretary General of ASF said: “The ASF has its long-standing position that the antitrust immunity system is indispensable for the healthy development of shipping industry as well as the whole trading industry.”

The ASF and CCS are united in the view that the antitrust immunity system plays a significant role in stabilising freight rates while promoting vessel service and capital investment.

Commenting on the view that modern conferences and discussion agreements are vehicles for rate fixing among the shipping lines, Mr Sonoda added: “This is no longer so. The practices of shipping conferences in earlier years are no longer in existence today.

“Discussion agreements are non-binding and individual lines act independently to secure their freight to sustain their own shipping business.”