WASHINGTON: The United States dealt Norwegian shipping company Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics a nearly $100 million fine Wednesday for involvement in fixing prices for automobile cargo services.
WWL was the fourth shipper to plead guilty in a US Justice Department investigation into price-fixing for roll-on roll-off (Ro-Ro) vessel services to US ports between 2000 and 2012.
The company admitted guilt to a one-count felony charge and agreed to pay a $98.9 million criminal fine.
“WWL and its co-conspirators cheated their customers for years by fixing the prices of ocean shipping services for cars, trucks, and other cargo essential to our nation’s economy,” said Renata Hesse, head of the Justice Department’s antitrust division.
Ro-Ro vessels are designed mainly to carry cars, trucks and other vehicles like mining equipment from manufacturers to markets.
In a statement the company, which specializes in Ro-Ro shipping with 55 vessels, said the price-fixing with competitors was against company policy.
“It is with great regret that I conclude that our policies were not always followed as they should have been,” said chairman Hakan Larsson.
Three other companies have already agreed to pay a total of $130 million in the US case: Japan’s K Line and NYK Line, and Chile’s CSAV. Eight shipping executives have also been charged, with four pleading guilty and receiving prison terms, and the other four still at large.
Separately, in December two transport agencies filed a class-action suit with the US Federal Maritime Commission alleging price fixing for Ro-Ro services between six carriers, including the four now fined by US authorities and two others, Hoegh Autolines of Norway and South Korea’s EUKOR Car Carriers.