By Liezel Hill
(Bloomberg) — South Africa’s Competition Commission searched the premises of six shipping companies including AP Moeller-Maersk A/S as part of an investigation into allegations that they colluded to fix incremental cargo rates between Asia and South Africa.
The antitrust regulator started raids on premises of local operations of Copenhagen-based Maersk and its Safmarine unit, Hamburg Sued Group, Mediterranean Shipping Co., Pacific International Lines Pte Ltd. and CMA CGM SA in the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal provinces, it said in an e-mailed statement on Wednesday. The investigation was triggered by a tip-off from a member of the public, the Pretoria-based commission said.
“South Africa is a strategic hub for the trade of goods in and out of the southern African region,” Commissioner Tembinkosi Bonakele said in the statement. “Any cartel by shipping liners in this region results in inflated prices for cargo transportation.”
The commission will seize documents and electronic data, which will be analyzed together with other information to determine whether the companies contravened the Competition Act, it said.
“We are cooperating fully,” Maersk said in e-mailed comments. “Such inspections do not mean that a company has engaged in anti-competitive behavior nor does it prejudge the outcome of the investigation.”
MSC confirmed that its premises were among those searched and said it’s assisting the relevant authorities with their investigations. Hamburg Sued declined to comment. Neither of the other companies responded immediately to e-mailed requests for comment on the Competition Commission statement.
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