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Robben Island boat operators face collusion, price-fixing charges

Jun 01 2017 07:22
Jenna Etheridge, News24

Cape Town – Five vessel owners who ferry passengers between Robben Island Museum and the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town have been referred to the Competition Tribunal for alleged price-fixing and collusive tendering, the Competition Commission said on Wednesday.

Commission spokesperson Sipho Ngwema said they had conducted an investigation after the museum complained about the vessel owners.

They are: Thembekile Maritime Services (Pty) Ltd (Thembekile); Silverbuckle Trade 21 CC t/a Yacoob Yatch (Silverbuckle); Nauticat Charters (Pty) Ltd (Nauticat Charters); Ferry Charters (Pty) Ltd (Ferry Charters); and Tigger 2 Charters (Pty) Ltd (Tigger 2 Charters).

The investigation uncovered a meeting the five had around September 22, 2015, at a coffee shop just metres away from where the ferries are launched.

Ngwema said they "discussed and agreed to increase the prices they would charge the museum when responding to a tender it issued".

The tender was for bidders to be listed on the museum’s database as a preferred service provider for a 12-month period.

After the meeting, Thembekile and Nauticat Charters apparently increased their prices to R18 000 per trip for 140 passengers (around R128 per head).

Ferry Charters did not alter its prices, as it was already charging this amount.

Silverbuckle and Tigger 2 Charters also increased their prices as agreed, but not to the same extent as their vessels were smaller, said Ngwema.

"This conduct constitutes price-fixing and collusive tendering, in contravention of the Competition Act, and the Commission has referred the complaint to the Tribunal for adjudication."

The commission wants an order declaring that the five have contravened the Competition Act and that they are liable to pay a penalty equal to 10% of their annual turnover.

As of June 1 this year, the Robben Island Museum will charge R340 per adult and R190 per child for a tour, which includes a return ferry trip across Table Bay, a visit to the Maximum Security Prison and a bus tour of the island.

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