BIMCO publishes POOLCON

After nearly three years of development work, BIMCO has released the industry’s first standard pooling agreement for use by tramp pools operating in dry and liquid bulk trades primarily on a COA or spot basis.

The POOLCON agreement is designed to provide users with a comprehensive and clearly worded contractual platform to establish pools that achieve the benefits of efficiency for the pool members and their customers without creating restrictions on trade. Under POOLCON the pool is operated by a pool manager, with members’ time chartering in their tonnage to the pool. The provisions of the agreement clearly set out the administrative and procedural requirements for operating the pool while allocating liabilities and obligations as between the members of the pool and the pool managers.

BIMCO's chief officer for legal and contractual affairs, Grant Hunter, says: "Ten years ago, ship owners were concerned that pooling arrangements might fall foul of EU Competition Law following the lifting of block exemptions. The concerns have proved to be largely groundless and as a result the number of shipping pools is growing steadily. However, owners still need to take care when pooling their vessels to ensure compliance. The development of POOLCON provides a welcome solid standard contractual platform on which owners operating in the dry and liquid bulk tramp trades can build their pools."

POOLCON is designed to be a generic document that can be used internationally. Issues of competition law have been carefully considered during drafting, but it is essential for potential users to appreciate that assessing whether a pool arrangement is consistent with local competition legislation is dependent on a number of factors such as market share, market concentration, market structure and turnover. These are matters which need to be determined by the prospective parties before entering into a pool agreement, as POOLCON cannot itself confer compliance with competition law.