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Sea transport — supply of services, competition, unfair pricing and access to ocean trade

Sea transport — supply of services, competition, unfair pricing and access to ocean trade




They aim to organise maritime transport in accordance with the basic principles of EU law to provide services, competition, and free access to the market in sea transport.


Freedom to provide services

Regulation No 4055/86:

  • grants EU-country nationals (and non-EU shipping companies using ships registered in an EU country and controlled by EU nationals) the right to carry passengers or goods by sea between any port of an EU country and any port or offshore installation of another EU country or of a non-EU country;
  • requires any national restrictions which reserve the carriage of goods to vessels flying the national flag to be phased out or adjusted, and prevents the introduction of new restrictions;
  • sets out a procedure for cases where EU-country shipping companies have no effective opportunity to carry goods to and from a particular non-EU country;
  • extends the benefits of the regulation to non-EU nationals established in the EU.

Regulation No 3577/92/EEC deals specifically with freedom to provide services in sea transport within EU countries (‘maritime cabotage’*).

Unfair pricing in maritime transport

Regulation No 4057/86:

  • authorises the EU to apply redressive duties in order to protect shipowners in EU countries from unfair pricing practices on the part of non-EU shipowners. These redressive duties can be imposed after an investigation which demonstrates that injury has been caused by unfair pricing and that the interests of the EU make intervention necessary;
  • concerning the examination of injury, lays down the appropriate factors or indicators to be taken into consideration, e.g. a reduction in the shipowner’s market share or profits, or the effect on employment;
  • lays down a procedure for complaints, consultations and subsequent investigations.

Free access to ocean trades

Regulation No 4058/86:

  • applies when action by a non-EU country or by its agents restricts free access to the transport of liner cargoes, bulk cargoes or other cargoes by shipping companies of EU countries or by ships registered in an EU country (except where such action is taken in conformity with the United Nations liner code);
  • allows for coordinated action by the EU following a request made by an EU country to the European Commission. Such action might include diplomatic representation to non-EU countries and countermeasures directed at the shipping companies concerned;
  • permits similar coordinated action to be taken at the request of another country belonging to the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development with which a reciprocal arrangement has been concluded.

Competition rules

General EU competition laws laid down in Regulation (EC) No 1/2003 also apply to the EU maritime transport sector. However, in accordance with Council Regulation (EC) No 246/2009, the Commission may make exceptions for certain types of cooperation between liner shipping* companies (consortia*). The Commission accordingly adopted Regulation (EC) No 906/2009, which allows these exceptions, and extended it until 25 April 2020 by Regulation (EU) No 697/2014.


  • Council Regulation (EEC) No 4055/86 has applied since 1 January 1987.
  • Council Regulations (EEC) No 4057/86 and 4058/86 have applied since 1 July 1987.
  • Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2003 has applied since 1 May 2004.
  • Council Regulation (EC) No 246/2009 has applied since 14 April 2009.
  • Commission Regulation (EC) No 906/2009 has applied since 26 April 2010.


For more information, see:


Cabotage: where a company which transports goods, registered in one EU country, carries out national transport in another EU country.
Liner shipping: regular transport of goods on a particular route or routes between ports, at previously advertised dates and times, and available to any paying transport user, even if on an occasional basis.
Consortia: agreements (or sets of agreements) between 2 or more shipping carriers which provide international liner shipping services solely for carrying cargo relating to one or more trades. Their purpose is to provide a joint maritime transport service which is better than the service that each of its members could have offered individually (i.e. without the consortium).


Council Regulation (EEC) No 4055/86 of 22 December 1986 applying the principle of freedom to provide services to maritime transport between Member States and between Member States and third countries (OJ L 378, 31.12.1986, pp. 1–3)

Successive amendments to Regulation (EEC) No 4055/86 have been incorporated in to the original document. This consolidated version is of documentary value only.

Council Regulation (EEC) No 4057/86 of 22 December 1986 on unfair pricing practices in maritime transport (OJ L 378, 31.12.1986, pp. 14–20)

Council Regulation (EEC) No 4058/86 of 22 December 1986 concerning coordinated action to safeguard free access to cargoes in ocean trades (OJ L 378, 31.12.1986, pp. 21–23)

Council Regulation (EC) No 1/2003 of 16 December 2002 on the implementation of the rules on competition laid down in Articles 81 and 82 of the Treaty (OJ L 1, 4.1.2003, pp. 1–25)

See consolidated version.

Council Regulation (EC) No 246/2009 of 26 February 2009 on the application of Article 81(3) of the Treaty to certain categories of agreements, decisions and concerted practices between liner shipping companies (consortia) (Codified version) (OJ L 79, 25.3.2009, pp. 1-4)

Commission Regulation (EC) No 906/2009 of 28 September 2009 on the application of Article 81(3) of the Treaty to certain categories of agreements, decisions and concerted practices between liner shipping companies (consortia) (OJ L 256, 29.9.2009, pp. 31–34)

See consolidated version.

last update 17.10.2016

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