Company or individual details
- Sea Swift Pty Ltd, a subsidiary of Sea Swift (Holdings) Pty Limited (ACN 159 387 390)010 889 040
The ACCC’s review
On 9 December 2014 the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) commenced a review of whether Sea Swift Pty Ltd’s (Sea Swift) proposed acquisition of assets associated with the Toll Marine Logistics business in the Northern Territory and far north Queensland (the Proposed Acquisition) would contravene section 50 of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (Cth) (the Act).
As part of the Proposed Acquisition, Sea Swift would acquire the lease between Perkins Properties Pty Ltd and the Arnhem Land Aboriginal Council in relation to the Gove Wharf at Melville Bay Rd, Foreshore Drive, Nhulunbuy (the Gove Lease).
During the course of the ACCC’s review, Sea Swift attempted to alleviate the ACCC’s competition concerns by offering an undertaking under section 87B of the Act. The proposed undertaking included obligations for Sea Swift to provide third party access to the roll-on, roll-off ramp at Gove (Gove Wharf).
On 9 July 2015 the ACCC decided to oppose the Proposed Acquisition (which included the undertaking) on the basis that it was likely to substantially lessen competition. The ACCC considered that the undertaking offered by Sea Swift lacked a number of features necessary for an effective access undertaking and therefore was insufficient to ensure Sea Swift’s competitors would have access to the Gove Wharf on terms that would enable them to effectively compete. The ACCC also had other concerns with the proposed acquisition that were not alleviated by the proposed undertaking or other conditions that had been proposed by Sea Swift during the review.
Application to the Australian Competition Tribunal for authorisation
On 4 April 2016, Sea Swift applied to the Australian Competition Tribunal (the Tribunal) for authorisation of the Proposed Acquisition under section 95AT(1) of the Act. This test requires the Tribunal to be satisfied that the Proposed Acquisition would result, or be likely to result in such a benefit to the public that it should be allowed to occur.
As part of Sea Swift’s application to the Tribunal, it stated that it was willing, as a condition of authorisation, to enter into a s87B undertaking that it will ensure unhindered and non-discriminatory access to the Gove Wharf for third parties, at commercial rates (the Gove Lease Undertaking). The key provisions of the Gove Lease Undertaking were similar to the provisions of the undertaking that Sea Swift offered during the ACCC’s review (and that the ACCC did not accept).
The ACCC expressed concerns to the Tribunal about the effectiveness and enforceability of the Gove Lease Undertaking. These concerns are detailed in the ACCC’s report to the Tribunal dated 18 May 2016, a copy of which is available at http://www.competitiontribunal.gov.au/documents/act2016/ACT2-16-57.pdf.
On 1 July 2016 the Tribunal granted authorisation for the Proposed Acquisition subject to conditions. The conditions are detailed in the Tribunal’s determination, a copy of which is available at http://www.competitiontribunal.gov.au/documents/act2016/ACT-2-of-2016-determination.pdf.
One of the conditions relates to the Gove Lease. This condition requires that Sea Swift:
- by the completion date of the Proposed Acquisition has executed and given the Gove Lease Undertaking to the ACCC;
- complies with the Gove Lease Undertaking in all material respects unless and until released from it by the ACCC; and
- does not transfer the Gove Lease without the approval of the ACCC.
Sea Swift states that the objective of the Gove Lease Undertaking is to require Sea Swift to provide third parties with access to services at the Gove Wharf on an open, non-discriminatory basis.
On 11 August 2016, Sea Swift executed the Gove Lease Undertaking. The undertaking was given to the ACCC on 5 September 2016.
In light of the Tribunal’s determination to authorise the Proposed Acquisition subject to conditions, which included the obligation on Sea Swift to give the Gove Lease Undertaking to the ACCC, and taking into account all relevant considerations, the ACCC signed the undertaking on 18 October 2016.