Shipping lines will be able to cooperate to transport cargo without risking a breach of European competition rules after a European competition watchdog gave the sector a renewed exemption.

The regulation has, however, brought in some changes in the ‘block exemption’ for shipping line consortia, which have existed since 1995 and have been renewed twice in the past.

The regulation will be applicable to all the liner shipping cargo services where the market share threshold has been reduced to 30%, from 35%.

Exit clauses and lock-in periods in cases where a liner wishes to withdraw from a consortium have been prolonged to suit the current market practices.

The rules clarify that the exemption can be withdrawn where the links between the liners and the consortia have a negative effect on competition.

The regulation will come into effect in April 2010, when the current regime expires. The new regulation will be applicable for five years from then.