ACCC investigation into container shipping anti-competitive practices

Thursday, September 23, 2021

As members will recall, The Australian published an article on 12 September 2021 ACCC investigating soaring Covid-linked shipping and container costs quoting Rod Sims, Chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer (ACCC) in terms of an investigation relating to anti-competitive behaviour in container shipping practices.
Following up on this matter, Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA) and the Australian Peak Shippers Association (APSA) representatives were privileged today to have direct engagement with ACCC representatives involved in the investigation and also the annual Stevedore Monitoring Report (next report due in November 2021).

Below is a summary of the main discussion points:
Investigation terms of reference
The ACCC confirmed it is investigating a potential breach of the Competition and Consumer Act in relation to whether anti-competitive conduct has led to price increases in the container shipping industry. Limited information could be provided as the ACCC does not generally comment on matters under investigation, however the following details were obtained:

  • the investigation is NOT a broad ranging enquiry into increasing pricing in the sector and is separate to the review being examined by the Federal Trade Minister – refer HERE;
  • the investigation is narrow in scope and has been commissioned in direct response to a specific allegation of anti-competitive practices; and
  • no detail was provided in terms of the commencement or projected end date of the investigation. 
Independent Decision Making
Reference was made to circumstances whereby shipping lines implement new surcharges and spot rates in quick succession of each other:
  • the ACC is aware of these concerns and is keeping close watch.
Exclusive dealings
Reference was made to scenarios whereby shipping lines are offering capacity and / or significantly discounted rates contingent on using their other 'vertically integrated' services such as landside transport and customs clearances:
  • examples were sought to make an assessment whether practices are 'substantially lessening competition'. 
Other matters
FTA/APSA shared views on:
  • stevedore and empty container park administered Terminal Access Charges;
  • the need for reform around shipping competition protections; and
  • landside logistics practices dominated by infrastructure owners without engagement and assessment of impacts on shippers. 

How to assist the ACCC
The ACCC is very interested in receiving feedback on suspicious behaviour that may indicate anti-competitive behaviour. Reports can be provided to the ACCC, including anonymously if preferred, via

For further detail, please contact me direct at  

Paul Zalai - Director FTA | Secretariat APSA | Director GSF