Hamburg Towage Trio Fined USD 15 Mn for Cartel Activity

Germany’s Federal Cartel Office (Bundeskartellamt) has fined three harbor towage service providers EUR 13 million (around USD 15.4 million) for cartel activity in several harbors in the country. 

The companies in question are Fairplay Towage, Bugsier and Petersen & Alpers, all from Hamburg, Bundeskartellamt said in a statement.

Furthermore, the authority said that no fine was imposed on Unterweser Reederei (URAG) which had also participated in the cartel agreement and its subsidiary Lütgens & Reimers because they had reported the cartel to the Bundeskartellamt.

For discretionary reasons, no fine was imposed on Neue Schleppdampfschiffsreederei Louis Meyer which has since exited the market.

Investigations into another company are still ongoing.

“Our investigations have shown that at least between 2002 and 2013 the harbour towage companies divided orders and turnover earned from several German harbours among themselves. The companies set quotas based on turnover which they used to allocate orders between them,” Andreas Mundt, President of the Bundeskartellamt, noted.

The quotas were set in 2000/2001 after Dutch harbor towage companies had started operating on the Elbe and Weser rivers. All the major towage companies in the respective harbors had participated in the quota allocation. As Dutch companies were also involved in the cartel, the Bundeskartellamt cooperated with the Netherlands Authority for Consumers and Markets in this case.

As explained, fines are calculated according to the gravity and duration of the infringement. In this particular case, in addition to the small geographical market, the “powerful position” of the opposite market side, in particular, the liner shipping companies, was taken into consideration in the companies’ favor. In setting the fine, the Bundeskartellamt also took into account that the three companies fined had cooperated with the authority within the scope of its leniency program and had each concluded a settlement with the authority.

Two of the fines are already final. The third fining decision can still be appealed to the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court.

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