Norwegian shipping company Wallenius Wilhelmsen Ocean AS pleaded guilty to charges of criminal cartel conduct in Australia’s Federal Court on Thursday, following an investigation by the country’s competition regulator.
The charges relate to the transportation of vehicles, including cars, trucks and buses, to Australia between June 2011 and July 2012, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) said in a statement.
Wallenius Wilhelmsen was charged with cartel conduct in August last year and is the third international shipping company to plead guilty after two Japanese firms were prosecuted for similar offences.
“This plea means the last of the cases in the long-running shipping cartel matters is now closer to being resolved,” ACCC Chair Rod Sims said in a statement. The watchdog could not provide further comment as the case was still before the court, he added.
Wallenius Wilhelmsen Ocean AS is owned by Wallenius Wilhelmsen ASA, which is listed on the Norwegian stock exchange.
“WW Ocean has cooperated fully in the ACCC’s investigation into the car carrier industry, and we are glad to be moving towards the end of the process,” the company said via email, in response to a request for comment.
“Wallenius Wilhelmsen is committed to fair and open competition and will continue to observe the normal processes of the Federal court in this matter.”
The case was adjourned for sentencing to a later date.
Japan’s Nippon Yusen Kabushiki Kaisha (NYK) pleaded guilty to criminal cartel conduct in 2016 and was fined A$25 million ($17 million). Kawasaki Kisen Kaisha Ltd (K-Line) pleaded guilty to criminal cartel conduct in 2018 and was fined A$34.5 million.
($1 = 1.4529 Australian dollars)
(Reporting by Shriya Ramakrishnan; additional reporting by Rashmi Ashok; Editing by Richard Pullin)