Nippon Yusen, Other Car Transporters Face Antitrust Suit

Nippon Yusen K.K. (9101), Japan’s biggest shipping line, and eight other maritime-car transporters were accused in a lawsuit by a Florida-based shipping company of fixing prices on carrier services.

Manaco International Forwarder Inc. contends officials of Nippon Yusen and other car transporters, such as Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd. (9107) and Mitsui O.S.K. Lines Ltd. (9104), violated U.S. antitrust laws by conspiring to “fix, stabilize or maintain prices of” their services, according to a lawsuit filed in federal court in Manhattan.

The conspiracy caused Ft. Lauderdale, Florida-based Manaco and other shipping clients to “pay artificially inflated prices” to have cars delivered, the company said in the complaint. Manaco is seeking to have the case certified as a class action, or group, lawsuit.

The suit follows raids by Japanese antitrust regulators last year at the offices of Nippon Yusen and four other shipping lines that control about 70 percent of the global market for carrying cars. The companies said the search was in connection with a probe of price-fixing claims.

Jiro Tanida, a Nippon Yusen spokesman, Jitsuo Narita, a spokesman for Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd., and Yasuyuki Fukuma, a Mitsui O.S.K. spokesman, couldn’t be immediately reached for comment on the suit yesterday in Japan.

‘Highly Concentrated’

Manaco contends the car-shipping companies operate in a “highly concentrated industry,” where companies all operate the same kind of “Roll-on/Roll-off” ships. The defendants sued in the case comprise the five largest companies based on capacity, according to court filings.

Even though the industry has faced a glut of transport capacity over the years, prices have remained stable or increased, Manaco said in its complaint. That fact “is indicative of price collusion within the market,” the company said.

The case is Manaco International Forwarders Inc. v. Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha, NYK Line (North America) Inc., 13-civ-5243, U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York (Manhattan)

To contact the reporter on this story: Jef Feeley in Wilmington, Delaware, at jfeeley@bloomberg.net;

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Michael Hytha at mhytha@bloomberg.net.

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