The Third Circuit on Wednesday affirmed the dismissal of litigation accusing several international shipping companies of fixing prices for transporting vehicles, saying that the federal Shipping Act preempts state and federal antitrust claims.

In a precedential ruling, Circuit Judge Patty Shwartz said that a group of direct purchasers of shipping services and end payors who brought multidistrict litigation claims against several international shipping companies could not seek relief under federal antitrust laws or any state laws for the shippers' alleged agreements to fix prices and reduce capacity.

Speaking on behalf of a three-judge panel, Judge Shwartz said that the Shipping Act of 1984 provides shipping companies with immunity from private antitrust suits based on conduct prohibited by the act. The law gives plaintiffs the opportunity to bring claims directly to the Federal Maritime Commission, and as in the instant case, it bars antitrust claims from being decided in federal or state court, the judge wrote.

The shipping defendants are represented by Roberto A. Rivera-Soto and Jason A. Leckerman of Ballard Spahr LLP.