It is alleged that the two major operators of parcel tankers, Stolt-Nielsen, S.A. and Odfjell ASA, agreed to coordinate bidding and to allocate the market for marine-transport of liquid chemicals on a customer-by-customer basis and on a sea lane-by-sea lane basis.
Parcel tankers are used for shipping large volumes of liquids, including chemicals, edible oils (Soybean, canola, etc.) and other liquid commodities. Parcel tankers carry many different bulk liquid cargoes (as many as 58) for different customers on the same voyage and load and discharge cargo at many different ports. On each voyage, they may carry a wide range of bulk liquids in parcels of several hundred to several thousand tons each. The newer parcel tankers have heating and cooling systems that provide temperature control for each parcel.
The chemical transport industry generates approximately $2.5 billion a year. These two companies account for approximately half of that figure.
The companies' European offices were raided in February as part of investigations by EU antitrust authorities. In addition the Department of Justice's Antitrust Division is conducting a criminal probe into the companies' alleged anti-competitive behavior, i.e. price-fixing and collusion in the ocean shipping industry.
Allegedly their conduct may have kept freight rates for ocean shipping 5% to 25% higher than they should have been.
The alleged anti-competitive conduct pertains to shipping of products for Dow Chemical/Union Carbide (chemical exports to Asia, Europe and South America), Exxon Mobil (lubricating fluid to Peru), Sasol (chemicals from South Africa to India and Asia).
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