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THE US Federal Maritime Commission has voted to reject the Tripartite Agreement proposed by Japanese carriers NYK, K Line and MOL.
The carriers, which have agreed to merge their container operations by next April, were seeking permission to share information and conduct joint negotiations with third-party businesses in the US in advance of their merger.
But the FMC held that these provisions would violate “gun-jumping” laws that forbid the sharing of competitively sensitive information or the premature combining of the parties.
“This decision by the FMC in no way precludes the Japanese carriers from merging their container trade business units into a single stand-alone company,” said commissioner William Doyle.
“Rather, the vote recognises that the FMC cannot approve certain actions that would allow the three Japanese companies to act as a merged entity prior to actually merging. In order to receive the benefits of a merger, you need to first merge.”
The Shipping Act did not provide the FMC with authority to even review and approve mergers, Mr Doyle said. The commission had continuing regulatory oversight over agreements between established ocean common carriers and marine terminal operators.
The proposed Tripartite Agreement sought authority to transfer shares or ownership interests in US-based marine terminals owned and/or operated by the Japanese lines.
“In as much as the pre-coordination activity of the liners is beyond the scope of FMC’s jurisdiction, this same rationale applies to marine terminal assets in the US,” Mr Doyle said.