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Donnellan speeds up Victorian stevedore surcharge probe

Opponents hammer message on impact felt by haulage and trade


Opponents of the present stevedore infrastructure surcharges regime have seen a recent chink of light brighten with Victorian ports minister Luke Donnellan accelerating his state’s examination of the issue.

Industry and trade services bodies smarting from recent surcharge hikes welcomed the statement Donnellan revealed in the midst of an announcement on the state’s Port Rail Shuttle Network.

“The Labor government has also announced it is bringing forward a review into regulating pricing and charges, as well as access to and from the port, following recently announced increases in stevedore infrastructure charges,” the announcement says.

Read how the Victorian government’s view has hardened recently on the issue, here

Donnellan’s statement was a boost for opponents who insist DP World Australia (DPWA) increases from January 1, will result in terminal access chargesits terminals in Melbourne rising by more than  1,000 per cent since April 2017, while Sydney charges will have risen by 247 per cent, and 86 per cent in Brisbane. They say the Melbourne increases are among the largest in the port’s history.

“Increases to port fees are one of the most serious threats to Victoria’s manufacturing and commodity export sectors ,” trade services operators, with  Freight & Trade Alliance director Australian Peak Shippers Association (APSA) secretary Travis Brooks-Garrett says.

“You can be the most competitive and efficient manufacturer in the world, but if it becomes increasingly marginal to ship products through the Port of Melbourne due to rampant landside cost increases, you’re going to be hamstrung.

“Victorian exporters welcome the Victorian Labor government being the first to draw a line in the sand to investigate these unregulated charges.

“The review should send a strong signal that Victoria’s port users require a transparent, fair and negotiated set of port access charges.

“As an example, for one major Victorian exporter, the recent imposition of unregulated infrastructure charges by the stevedores represents $1.6 million in additional costs every year, with no defined productivity benefit.

“The increases have been most concerning for high-volume, low-margin commodities, like grain and other agriculture exports.”

“This is a national issue, and it’s great that Victoria is the first state to stand up and instigate a review. We urge the other affected states to act as well.”

Long-term opponent Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA) believes the announcement’s timing is auspicious.

“Landside transport operators, road and rail, of international shipping containers have these infrastructure charges imposed on them, which they must pay to gain access to the stevedores’ terminals. If they don’t pay, their terminal access can be denied, threatening their business survival,” CTAA director Neil Chambers says.

“It is noteworthy that Minister Donnellan announced the review just ahead of the Victorian state election.

“Clearly, if the Andrews’ Labor government is returned to power, the outcome of the review will be a priority.”

“Ahead of the election, we will be asking the state Coalition opposition to mirror the commitment to expedite the review and to take action on its recommendations.

“It’s also important that the inquiry not only peels back the layers of complexity in port access charges levied by shipping lines and stevedores alike, but also reviews what productivity measurements should be adopted to ensure that our container logistics chains are price competitive, sustainable and efficient.

“In Victoria, independent monitoring of landside container port interface performance simply doesn’t exist, and it should. How can we improve what we don’t measure objectively?”


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