Logistics News

Horne underlines regulatory option on container access

Bailey’s attention confirmed as new round of cost hikes loom

 

More hints of a hardening of state ministerial attitudes towards stevedore container access charging emerges in a letters and intimations to opponents of the continuing hikes.

However, whilst heartened, trade services bodies Freight & Trade Alliance/Australian Peak Shippers Association (APSA/FTA) insists that, on past experience, stevedores are unlikely to respect a voluntary solution offered by the states.

“Precedent would suggest that DP World will ignore any state government waning and will proceed with price increases scheduled for Melbourne and Brisbane on 1 May 2020 and Port Botany on 8 May 2020,” it says, adding: “It will be a big call for DP World to again snub state governments warnings at time where state governments are clearly rallying to give essential support to Australian exporters and importers.”

In a letter to APSA/FTA, Victorian ports and freight minister Melissa Horne reiterates her disappointment at the stevedore DP World Australia (DPWA) for actions involving charges and penalties.

“In January 2020, when I released the summary of our Port Pricing and Access Review to stakeholders, I advised stakeholders that the Victorian Government was not intending to move towards heavy-handed regulation, but would instead work towards establishing a new Voluntary Port Performance Model for the Port of Melbourne in partnership with all port users,” Horne writes.

“I also said that if voluntary standards didn’t improve pricing transparency, it was open to the Victorian Government to consider mandatory standards.

“DP World’s decision runs counter to our commitment to pricing transparency, and points clearly to the need for the new standards we are now developing.

“I have asked DP World to explain the rationale for the price increase they have announced, and have raised my concerns with the timing of the announcement during the COVID-19 crisis and so soon after the last increase in these charges.”


Read about the NSW response to recent access charge moves, here


In a document, FTA/APSA lists the regular access charge hikes that all the stevedores have engaged in since July 2018.

“While there is no suggestion of collusion, it is clearly a case of ‘follow the leader’ with each stevedore conveniently taking it in turn to periodically ratchet up the quantum of the surcharges,” the document states.

“Transport operators (road and rail) are at ransom to pay the fee to gain access to the terminals to collect and deliver containers – this aligns to an appropriate renaming of the surcharge by some stevedores as a ‘Terminal Access Charge’.

“Many transport operators have included administration fees to manage cash flow associated with these charges resulting in cascading charges flowing through the supply chain.

“Ultimately, Australian exporters and importers pay further inflated prices.”

It also carries quotes from five firms whose goods pass through ports pointing out the deadening impact of the extra costs, which then impact on export demand and the cost of imported goods.

Along with the Horne letter, FTA/APSA confirms the interest in the subject of Queensland transport and main roads minister Mark Bailey.

“A statutory monitoring process to oversee further price increases is not the answer,” FTA director Paul Zalai emphasises.

“The above listed prices are already excessive. Incremental increases on this base would continue the devastating impacts on Australians.

“Our regulators need to protect shippers by forcing stevedores to cease this practice.

“Stevedores should be given appropriate notice to allow negotiations of charges with shipping lines.

“This outcome would allow market forces to take effect.

“An open and competitive environment will determine appropriate price for services without the need for further government monitoring or intervention.”

 

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