Mainland authorities will crack down on 'irregularities' in the international shipping business, including firms operating without authority, according to officials. Some offices and branches of foreign companies had carried out international shipping without government approval, the official Business News reported. The report quoted officials saying some domestic companies also had engaged illegally in international shipping or used their licences to allow unauthorised firms to do such business. 'These acts have seriously disturbed the normal business order of the international shipping market, damaged the interests of customers and caused losses in the state's tax revenue,' the newspaper said, quoting Sun Zhenyu, Deputy Minister of Foreign Trade and Economic Co-operation. Beijing would close unauthorised companies and punish those illegally involved in the business, Mr Sun told a seminar in Shanghai. The central government also would ensure all international shippers used the same invoices and receipts to maintain order, he said. China had 1,542 international shipping companies, including 444 Sino-foreign joint-ventures, the newspaper said. A source said the crackdown extended to freight forwarding agents who were operating either without licences or exceeding business limits of their licences. Most freight forwarders had licences to operate only trucking and rail freight, or sea freight or air freight, he said. Only class-A licence holders were allowed to handle sea, land and air freight, he added. Intense competition had caused many forwarders to go beyond legal limits to provide services in areas in which they had no authority, the source said. He said that there had been undercutting and deterioration in services as a result.