South Korea fines 23 shipping companies $81m for price fixing

South Korea container port volumes grow 1.3% in Q1


The antitrust regulator in South Korea has sanctioned 23 domestic and foreign container shipping companies for fixing maritime freight rates.

On 18 January 2022, the Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) said it has imposed a fine of KRW 96.2 billion (about $80.7 million) on Korean and foreign carriers along with corrective order.

The companies were reportedly involved in collusive conduct over the past fifteen years, unlawfully fixing higher freight rates on Korean-Southeast Asian sea routes.

Specifically, 12 local and 11 foreign companies colluded to set the prices of container cargo services on Korean-Southeast Asian import and export routes 120 times between 2003 and 2018. According to KFTC, they collectively agreed on all freight rates, including the minimum level of the basic freight rate.

The South Korean companies in question are Korea Shipping, Namseong Shipping, Dongyeong Shipping, Dongjin Merchant Marine, Beomju Shipping, SM Merchant Marine, HMM, Janggeum Merchant Marine (Sinokor), Cheonkyung Shipping, Pan Ocean, Heung-A Line, and Heung-A Shipping.

The foreign companies sanctioned by KFTC include Cheongri Navigation, Evergreen Marine Corporation, Wan Hai Lines, Yangming Marine Transport Corporation, Sealand Maersk Asia, Pacific International Lines, New Golden Sea Shipping (COSCO), Gold Star Line, Orient Overseas Container Lines (OOCL), SITC, and TS Lines.

In 2016 and 2017, the Fair Trade Commission also imposed penalties on a number of companies for LNG bid fixing and car carrier services antitrust law violations.

KFTC is a ministerial-level central administrative organization and, under the authority of the South Korean Prime Minister, functions as a quasi-judiciary body.

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