Industry confident of killing off Port Botany auction system

By: Jason Whittaker

The trucking industry is confident of persuading the New South Wales Government to reject a user-pays system at Port Botany

The trucking industry is confident of persuading the New South Wales Government to reject a user-pays system at Port Botany proposed by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal (IPART).

Jill Lewis from the Australian Trucking Association’s (ATA) New South Wales branch has labelled IPART’s report into reforming the port, released last week, a rehash of the draft that preceded it.

And similar to there being little change to the final report over the draft, the industry has not wavered in its opposition to the vehicle booking system (VBS) proposed by IPART.

The ATA will be taking its concerns to Minister for Ports and Waterways Joe Tripodi to convince him to reject the recommendations, a move Lewis expects to pay dividends.

"I am optimistic the Government will listen," she says. "We will fight for it [the auction system] not to go ahead."

Lewis’ confidence stems from Tripodi announcing he will consult with the industry before deciding on how to respond to IPART’s findings.

The report called for stevedores to introduce a two-tiered VBS containing ‘firm’ slots and ‘interruptible’ slots. Under the ‘firm’ slot measure, trucking operators will vie for a guaranteed time of entry and exit while the other method will continue the first-come-first-served situation.

Despite IPART championing the auction system as a means to combat congestion and ensure efficient flow of container traffic, it conceded the system will be difficult to implement. Lewis agrees such a system would be too complex to enforce.

She would rather see an independent booking system established - in opposition to IPART which found "it is in the best interests of the supply chain that the stevedores retain the function of determining the number of slots offered".

Industry opposition to the VBS system also comes from IPART announcing "it may require road transporters to make significantly higher payments in some periods than in current VBS fees".

As part of a report into reforming Port Botany, IPART made 18 recommendations aimed at boosting port efficiency which includes the auction system.

IPART recommended payments be varied between peak and off-peak periods. It argued for the stevedores to implement the system, with the Government only intervening if Port Botany’s problems cannot be rectified through this measure.

IPART also recommended greater investment by the Government in rail in order to move 40 percent of freight onto it.

The Government is expected to follow through with this after Tripodi flagged his support for the Freight Infrastructure Advisory Board’s (FIAB) report Railing Port Botany’s Containers.

"Our response to the FIAB report supported plans for an Intermodal Logistics Centre at Enfield to help move 40 percent of Port Botany’s freight by rail," Tripodi says.

According to Tripodi, the Government will also bear in mind FIAB’s report when considering IPART’s recommendations.

There are still a host of unanswered questions surrounding the implementation of a VBS system, with IPART saying issues such as timing requirements for container numbers, penalties for breaching firm slot requirements and how the auction will work still need to be considered.

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