Australian Competition Watchdog to Probe Shipping Cost Hikes

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Published Sep 15, 2021 8:57 PM by The Maritime Executive

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has opened an inquiry into the soaring cost of shipping. It joins a host of other regulators in the world, including the UK and US, which have started similar investigations into the current astronomical freight rates.

In an interview, ACCC chairperson Rod Sims confirmed that the commission is investigating the surge, stating, “There is a limited amount I can say on it, but we are looking at the freight system-particularly the role that containers play."

Australian business executives have been calling on the watchdog to regulate the shipping industry. “What we do need is just some level of regulation to make sure that pricing here isn’t artificially being inflated, and that again, there’s enough safeguards in place to ensure that surcharges are reasonable,” said Mr Zalai, Australia’s Freight and Trade Alliance Director.

This comes as two shipping lines - CMA CGM and Hapag Lloyd - announce a cap on further spot rates increase for containerized cargo.

The question remains whether regulatory bodies can redeem the shipping industry from high freight rates. In a recent UNCTAD webinar, Denis Chourmet of Global Shippers Alliance suggested that “the key to unlocking the current crisis is in better collaboration in the market. Regulation and competition authorities may not be able to solve the problem by capping and banning.” 

Chourmet suggested cooperative measures to make the shipping industry more transparent and increase the efficiency of supply chains through digitalization.