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November 25, 2003

Dow sues chemical carriers

Dow Chemical Co. filed Nov. 7 in U.S. District Court in New Haven, Conn., suing Stolt Nielsen SA, Odfjell SA, Jo Tankers BV and Mitsui OSK Line Group's Tokyo Marine Co., according to the Wall Street Journal.

The suit alleges the carriers rigged bids and conspired to inflate shipping prices artificially. The suit seeks to recover legal costs as well as triple damages for all purchases of services that were affected by the alleged conspiracy.

Stolt Nielsen SA said today that the company believes the Dow Chemical claims are without merit and that it will vigorously defend itself against those claims. The company added that the relationships between its chemical shipping unit--Stolt-Nielsen Transportation Group B.V.--and its customers are governed by contracts that contain arbitration clauses. Stolt Nielsen said it will move for the courts to compel arbitration as agreed to by customers in their contracts with the company.

Odfjell said it had learned that Dow Chemical Company and its subsidiary Union Carbide Corporation had filed lawsuits in the U.S. against itself and the other carriers, but noted "the lawsuits have not yet been served on Odfjell."
  A company statement noted that on September 29, 2003 "Odfjell ASA's wholly owned subsidiary Odfjell Seachem AS entered into a voluntary plea agreement with the U.S. Department of Justice. Odfjell Seachem AS agreed to plead guilty to a single-count violation of the U.S. Sherman Antitrust Act for allocating customers and thereby fixing prices on certain contracts of affreightment from 1998 to 2002."
"It is our firm opinion," continued the statement, "that Odfjell Seachem's customers have not suffered any losses because of the antitrust violations, and consequently there is no basis for the claims from Dow Chemicals and Union Carbide. Because these matters are still at an early stage, we are unable to provide further information for the time being."


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