OUR SAY: Patrick's disappointment over port rebuff is misguided


Stevedoring firm Patrick has a wicked sense of humour or suffers from short-term memory lapses

By Brad Gardner | May 14, 2010

Stevedoring firm Patrick has a wicked sense of humour or suffers from short-term memory lapses.

When the company expressed "disappointment" this week after its proposed deal to improve efficiency at Port Botany was rebuffed by the trucking industry, wharf operators could have been forgiven for breaking out in fits of laughter or rage.

The NSW branch of the Australian Trucking Association has for more than a year been calling for changes to the port to improve truck turnaround times and reduce delays.

In January this year the General Manager of Johnston’s Transport and now former chairman of the ATA’s container group, Mike Moylan, highlighted significant congestion delays and a lack of consultation from stevedores.

But even with the threat of government intervention looming, Patrick and DP World happily ploughed ahead, ignoring indsutry requests for change and the drivers who were left in queues.

Only after Ports and Waterways Minister Paul McLeay announced stevedores and trucking operators would be held accountable for delays from September this year did Patrick swing into action.

After snubbing the industry for so long, it now wanted to climb into bed with it by hastily slapping together a proposal on its preferred approach to cutting delays.

But if it was serious about improving the running of the port, Patrick would have sat down earlier to discuss the problems and develop a solution.

Its last-minute call for a deal and the inadequacy of its proposal indicates a lack of appreciation for the industry's concerns.

Its scheme waters down the Government’s plan by reducing the penalty fee and extending the time before a cost is imposed.

How could Patrick legitimately expect the industry to support it?

Rather than paying once a driver is delayed for 15 minutes, penalties under Patrick’s plan would kick in after 50 minutes. And that figure is based on average turnaround times, meaning some drivers may be waiting significantly longer 50 minutes.

Did those drafting the proposal consider the implications this has for trucking operators? An almost one-hour delay will play havoc on delivery schedules and a driver’s fatigue management obligations.

And Patrick’s accusation that the Government’s plan is a new tax is certainly a generous assessment of what a tax is. Patrick has a choice whether it will pay the fees; improve turnaround times and no cost will be imposed.

If any party has cause to be disappointed it is the truckers. For too long they have had to beg, plead and urge stevedores to take action.

Patrick’s real disappointment is that it will now be held accountable for the time drivers are spent queuing.

After the ATA rejected Patrick’s proposal, the stevedore’s Paul Garaty said the company would now make the necessary changes to comply with the government regulations.

Hopefully that wasn’t another attempt at humour.




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