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By Paul Page  3/22/2017

Concerns over price-fixing in shipping are spreading just as global container lines are preparing to line up in powerful new alliances. The U.S. Justice Department effectively disclosed an investigation into the liner companies, the WSJ’s Costas Paris reports, by crashing a meeting of top industry executives and issued subpoenas to companies including Maersk Line, a unit of Danish conglomerate A.P. Moller Maersk A/S and Germany’s Hapag-Lloyd AG. The probe comes as carriers are undertaking big changes following a crushing downturn, consolidating businesses while exerting new discipline on operations and pricing. They’re also resetting operations this spring under three big alliances that will divide an enormous share of containerized goods on major trade lanes. The shipping lines are seeing freight rates rise at a substantial pace off last year’s historic lows, increases carriers say are the result of tight capacity. Recent probes in the automobile-shipping and airfreight business suggest investigators won’t easily let go of questions over collusion, however.

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