The Club, the nickname for the bi-annual meeting of the International Council of Containership Operators, is a secretive alliance of the CEOs of the world’s top two dozen container lines. The Club never announces its meeting date or location, and its membership is restricted to just the CEOs.
According to the Journal of Commerce (subscription required), the U.S. Department of Justice has an investigation underway on possible price fixing in the industry. Thus, FBI agents served subpoenas at the Box Club meeting on many firms, including CMA CGM, Hapag Lloyd, Maersk Line and Mediterranean Shipping. Maersk is the industry’s largest firm. FBI investigators simultaneously served subpoenas on the U.S. offices of many shipping lines.
A Maersk Line spokesman told The Australian newspaper the subpoena did not contain specific allegations, and multiple companies told the newspaper they would fully comply with U.S. authorities.
The federal investigation comes at a time when most lines have affiliated with one of three shipping alliances: 2M, Ocean Alliance or THE Alliance. 2M has two lines with 30 percent of the market, Ocean Alliance has five lines with 25 percent of the market and THE Alliance has five lines with 20 percent of the market.