Agreement to fix Hunter Valley coal chain collapses

Agreement to fix Hunter Valley coal chain constraints collapses, as ACCC walks away from deal

September 2, 2009

The agreement to fix the bottlenecked Hunter Valley coal chain has collapsed, with the competition watchdog withdrawing its support for a proposed solution over a missed paperwork deadline.

The Australian Competitor and Consumer Commission (ACCC) revoked an interim authorisation for a long term solution after one party involved in the agreement failed to respond.

The parties, which involved Port Waratah Services and the Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group, were due to reach an agreement by August 31.

"Despite the applicants being given six weeks’ notice, the ACCC is advised that one party has failed to execute," the ACCC says.

Port Waratah Port Services, which agreed to the deal by the deadline, blamed incoming coal loader Newcastle Coal Infrastructure Group for the ACCC's decision.

PWCS General Manager Graham Davidson says while the failure of NCIG to sign the agreement is a setback, his organisation will continue to move forward and negotiate an outcome.

"PWCS signed to the long term plan in good faith, continuing a spirit of cooperation shown throughout the entire negotiation period," Davidson says.

"We were in position to implement the tripartite plan in practice from January 1, 2010, however, there is still enormous scope to make progress with the New South Wales Government, and this is where PWCS’ efforts will be focussed from now on."

NSW Minister for Ports Joe Tripodi also expressed his disappointment at the break down and says the only hope for long term solution could rest with a bilateral agreement, something the government had been trying to avoid.

"Our preference has been, and remains, an industry wide agreement, and we have spent two years working with industry to develop this," Tripodi says

"A bilateral agreement was always an option for Government and this option may become necessary following today’s developments. It has been avoided until now."

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