South Korea fines 15 shipping companies for price fixing

South Korea container port volumes grow 1.3% in Q1

The authorities in South Korea have fined 15 shipping companies a total of 80 billion won ($64 million) for price fixing on Japan routes.

South Korea’s Fair Trade Commission (FTC), which accused the companies of offences related to “ocean-freight collusion”, cited 76 specific instances of collusion on Japan routes between February 2003 and May 2019. 

Korea Marine Transport, Sinokor Merchant Marine and Namsung Shipping were among the 14 Korean companies fined. Hong Kong’s SITC was the only foreign company on the list.

Korea Marine Transport was fined 14.6 billion won, the biggest fine, and SITC 127 million. The companies not only fixed prices but also carved up the market, according to the regulator.

The FTC in January fined 23 shipping companies 96.2 billion won for price fixing on routes between Korea and Southeast Asia.

On Chinese routes, 27 companies — 16 Korean and 11 foreign — were found to have fixed prices between January 2000 and December 2018. None were fined as the harm was seen as limited. The remedy was an order to end the collusion.

“The act of colluding on Korea-China routes isn’t much different from that on the Korea-Southeast Asia or the Japan routes,” said Cho Hong-sun, Director General of the FTC’s cartel investigation bureau. “But the collusion was committed when the governments of both countries — Korea and China — had already limited competition by restricting cargo volume as agreed under a shipping agreement. And thus the impact or the damages were relatively small.” 

Regarding shipping routes to North America and the EU, the regulator did not detect any violations.

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