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Legal Battle Looms as Liner Operators Challenge Korea Fair Trade Commission’s Fine

 |  February 28, 2024

More than 20 liner operators are gearing up for a prolonged legal confrontation with the Korea Fair Trade Commission (KFTC) following their decision to contest fines imposed in 2022. The fines were levied on charges of collusion to manipulate South Korea-South-east Asia tradelanes, sparking a series of lawsuits filed individually with the Seoul High Court.

In a development stemming from complaints lodged by timber traders in July 2018, the KFTC took action against 23 liner operators in January 2022. Among these operators were 14 South Korean entities, alongside major international players such as Evergreen, Cosco, Maersk Sealand, Yang Ming, HMM, and SM Line. The fines collectively amounted to $81 million.

The investigation conducted by the KFTC centered on allegations that the operators engaged in coordinated efforts to inflate freight rates between 2003 and 2018. While joint actions among liner operators are permitted under the Shipping Act, the KFTC deemed these particular maneuvers to be in violation of the Fair Trade Act.

The fines imposed by the KFTC sparked immediate pushback from the liner operators, who have now opted to challenge the penalties in court. By initiating lawsuits with the Seoul High Court, these companies signal their intent to contest the allegations and seek redress against the imposed fines.

The legal battle ahead promises to be protracted, with both sides likely to present extensive arguments and evidence to support their respective positions. The outcome of these legal proceedings holds significant implications not only for the involved liner operators but also for the broader regulatory landscape governing trade practices within South Korea’s maritime industry.

Source: The Load Star