Thursday, November 17, 2016


The huge vehicle  carrier , Aphrodite Leader , registered in Panama , owned by the   Japanese  NYK  line, in Townsville this week , as usual , received no media coverage. Recently the Australian Competition  and  Consumer  Commission in the Federal Court filed  a  criminal indictment  against  NYK ( Nippon Yusen Kabushiki  Kaisha)  for  cartel  behaviour.

These same powers were used  in 2009 in the case which exposed collusion in the Australian packaging   industry  between  Visy  and  Amcor.Found guilty, corporations can be  fined  up to $10 million, 10 per cent of their annual turnover  or three times  their ill gotten gains . Individuals can also be put in the  slammer  for   10 years .

In March , the US  Department of Justice  jailed   an  executive of the NYK  company for 15 months for  his  role in  a  price-fixing and bid-rigging conspiracy over   international  shipping of  roll-on, roll-off cargo such as cars and trucks.

This followed NYK paying a $US59.4m fine in December after pleading guilty to its involvement in the same conspiracy from 1997 until 2012. An indication of the extent of the international price fixing racket is that the Department of Justice reported that four companies, including NYK, had pleaded guilty to participating in the RO-RO cartel and had been fined a total of US230m.

The  Norwegian line Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics pleaded guilty to price fixing and agreed to pay a $US98.9m ($130m) fine.The  US District Court in Baltimore, Maryland, was told that  cartel participants held meetings at which  they discussed and exchanged prices for certain customer tenders so as not to undercut each other’s prices.
In March  2014  , NYK,  listed on the Tokyo exchange, was ordered  by  Japan’s Fair Trade Commission to pay ¥13 billion (about $160m) for being part of a group that “agreed to mutually refrain from contending for customers by not offering  lower  freight  rates and  to  raise  or  maintain  freight rates”.It was reported by the FTC that routes on which NYK  conspired to fix prices included those  between  Japan   and Australia .
 NYK is the fourth-biggest listed marine shipping group in the world and has the dominant market share  among  car carriers.  

Townsville is a major  distribution point   for  cars  and  trucks shipped in from overseas   for  a  large  part  of  North Australia. As a  consequence RO-RO vessels  regularly visit   the port, but  are rarely  mentioned by the media when  they  do .  Basic  questions that should be asked  when they  dock :  how many  vehicles ,  what   kind ,  who   for,  also a list of cities  and towns where the  vehicles will  be  despatched ,  by what  means ,   how many for the  Northern Territory  ? 

 So have  Australian  motorists , mining companies, small outback communities  in  North Australia  been  forced to  pay higher  prices for  vehicles  because of  shipping  cartels?     Reporters  might  like to  ask  the  car agencies  for   comment .  Is   there  room  for  a  class  action ?