Dutch probe possible fuel price-fixing cartel at ports

Dutch probe possible fuel price-fixing cartel at ports

13th July 2017, Comments 0 comments

Dutch officials on Wednesday revealed they are probing a possible illegal cartel operating in Dutch and Belgian ports to fix the prices of fuel sales to ships.

The Dutch Authority for Consumers and Markets said it "has launched an investigation into a possible cartel in the bunker sector."

The probe involves companies operating in Rotterdam and Amsterdam, as well as the Belgian port of Antwerp, the Dutch competition authority said.

"Several companies may have concluded illegal price-fixing agreements," it said in a statement.

Acting on a tip-off from police, the Dutch watchdog has already carried out several dawn raids on the suspect companies.

Bunkering involves supplying fuel to ships anchored in seaports, and the term comes from the days when coal was stored in bunkers on the quaysides.

Today it involves marine gas fuel and diesel fuel, as well as other types of fuel used to power sea-faring vessels.

Rotterdam "is the world's third largest bunkering port," the authority said.

"The bunker sector is a critical one for the Dutch ports and shipping companies," it continued, adding that in the three ports "dozens of bunkering companies are active as producers, suppliers or storage providers".

Companies found to have operated a price-fixing cartel could face fines as high as 40 percent of their combined global turnover, while individuals found guilty of heading a cartel face a maximum 900,000 euros fine.

The authority urged people to help the investigation, stressing that "fair competition will result in competitive prices, higher quality, and more innovation".

Rotterdam, Europe's busiest port, could find its business harmed if "other ports are able to process freight cheaper and in a more innovative way," it added.

 

AFP / Expatica

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