Samskip Admonishes Iceland for Misrepresentations Over $32M Collusion Fine

Samskip vessel
Samskip strongly commended the Icelandic Competition Authorities' finding of collusion (Samskip file photo)

Published Sep 1, 2023 4:57 PM by The Maritime Executive

The long-running Icelandic investigation into the alleged collusion between Dutch shipping company Samskip and Iceland’s Eimskip heated up with the release of a report finding serious violations and illegal actions by Samskip and announcing a $31.7 million fine. Samskip released a response using strong accusatory language to reject the “assumptions and conclusions” of the Icelandic Competition Authority and promising to use all available means by law to overturn the decision.

The investigation into the purported collusion between the two shipping companies has been going on for 13 years. The Icelandic Competition Authority started the action in 2010, followed by raids on Samskip and Eimskip’s offices in 2013 and 2014. Samskip accused them of “seizing large amounts of information.”

The ICA issued initial reports in 2018 and again in 2019, with a third and final report in November 2020. The reports are more than two thousand pages and the accompanying documents number in the tens of thousands. The full report was published on August 31 in 15 volumes plus an appendix. Samskip says that it submitted detailed comments on the reports illustrating how the ICA’s preliminary conclusions were fundamentally incorrect. 

The ICA concludes that Samskip violated the country’s competition law and conducted illegal consultations with Eimskip. Further, they reported that the investigators believed Samskip during the investigation provided “incorrect, misleading, and insufficient information and data delivery.” In addition to making recommendations for measures that the company needs to take to “prevent further infringements and promote competition,” the ICA is leveling a $31.7 million administrative fine.

The investigation had initially centered on the time from 2008 to 2013 alleging continuous collusion with the main objective to restrict competition. The investigation was exploring charges that the companies colluded by making changes to their operating schedules and routes. They said it was done to maintain or increase prices to customers. During the investigation, the time span was expanded to reach back as far as 2001, looking at actions for the transport services to North America between 2004 and 2009, actions in 2005, and alleged collusion in 2007 on stevedoring in the Iceland port of Reyðarfjörður.

“Samskip is deeply disappointed by the ICA’s procedure in the case. The ICA’s conclusion is characterized by half-truths, misleading statements, and misrepresentations of facts,” Samskip said in its public response to the report and the imposition of the fine.

The company went on to call the process “extraordinarily cumbersome,” saying that it has had a “crippling effect” on its operations. They contend that they had submitted detailed comments on the reports illustrating how the conclusions were “fundamentally wrong.” 

Eimskip in June 2021 settled with the ICA acknowledging that there was communication and collusive behavior with Samskip between 2008 and 2013 in violation of Icelandic law. Eimskip paid a nearly $12 million administrative fine and agreed to certain actions to prevent further violations and promote competition.

The ICA in its report released yesterday says that when Samskip became aware that Eimskip was in settlement negotiations, they too requested settlement talks. The ICA says the discussions took place in June and July 2021, but it was “clear that they would not produce a result in the opinion of the ICA that included a satisfactory outcome.” They terminated the negotiations.

The Icelandic Competition Authority reports that Samskip has one month to pay the fine. Samskip said in its response that it would “not abide by the ICA’s decision,” and use all legal means to overturn the decision.