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Continerchain concern at Patrick nightshift reversal

Grouping insists East Swanson Terminal reversal will have landside flow-on effects


Stevedore Patrick has announced that, from Monday, night shift operations at its East Swanson Dock (ESD) terminal will be reduced from six nights per week to four – a 33 per cent reduction in night shift vehicle booking slot availability for Melbourne’s wharf road transport operators.

The night shifts to close are: Sunday 10pm to Monday 6am (first shift Monday); Friday 11pm to Saturday 6am (first shift Saturday).

Patrick cites the competitive container stevedoring market in Melbourne and the general reduction in container volumes at Patrick East Swanson Terminal for a move found unwelcome by the containerchain grouping of Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA), Australian Peak Shippers Association (APSA) and Freight and Trade Australia (FTA).

“Wharf transport operators have expressed their disappointment at the lack of consultation and notice, as many transport operators have adapted their businesses to night shift operations over the years, with the full encouragement of the stevedores.” CTAA director Neil Chambers says.

“Wharf transport operators are now left to deal with their own staffing, rostering and operational issues to adapt to this almost immediate change.”

Chambers reports CTAA “called for and led a productive meeting” with Patrick ESD Terminal management on Monday to work through the implications on the shift reductions.

Wharf carriers are said to be apprehensive about:

  • increased VBS slot and stack run availability on corresponding day shifts to compensate
  • the extension of export receival cut-offs for vessel schedules that may be impacted
  • import container availability times
  • R&D impacts for several train services into the Port of Melbourne
  • the needs of country carriers for early slot availability to deal with their unique scheduling, optimal truck turn cycles, and driver fatigue management obligations.

He also notes that the impact includes wharf transport operators having to change their own staffing, rostering and operational parameters after years of being encouraged strongly by the stevedores to embrace night shift operations.

Read how Melbourne container access charges have soared again, here

FTA director Paul Zalai notes that “it’s difficult to reconcile the ever-increasing landside infrastructure charges levied by Patrick Terminals with this reduction in night shift service levels.

“The market anticipates that Patrick will announce further infrastructure fee increases in February for a March 2020 commencement.

“Yet, these landside service levels are being implemented, divorced from the corporate intent of Patrick to leverage more revenue from the landside, and way from their traditional customers the shipping lines.

“This is further evidence that the infrastructure fee increases are about making up for lost revenue from shipping lines, and not as much about investment in landside interface productivity improvements, let alone maintaining existing service levels.

“We will continue to pursue these inequities through the industry’s engagement with the Victorian Government on its Port of Melbourne Pricing & Access Review.”

The reduction in shifts at Patrick ESD Terminal is also expected to have impacts on container detention “free time” constraints.

Chambers noted that “the reduced time opportunity for transport operators to pick up import containers from Patrick ESD may lead to a day – or more – of delay from container discharge from a vessel to the time that the container is able to be de-hired empty.

“Many shipping lines now start the ‘detention clock’ from vessel discharge, and not from the time when containers are declared to be available for pick up, or from the time when the container is physically able to be collected.”

The FTA/APSA /CTAA alliance recommend that importers should seek container detention free-time extensions from shipping lines for those handled through Patrick ESD as a result of the reduction in available R&D shifts.

“I’m pleased to say that there was good collaboration between transport operators and terminal management at the meeting, and we’ve agreed to monitor the situation closely over the coming weeks and reconvene to review.” Chambers says.

Meanwhile, in response to the bushfire emergency and “in keeping with the Australian spirit of supporting the broader community, and in recognition of the tireless efforts of volunteers”, Patrick will donate $100,000 split between the Salvation Army Disaster Appeal, New South Wales Rural Fire Service and NSW animal rescue service WIRES.


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