Meeting holds key to container park congestion

Melbourne port supply chain meeting tomorrow could decide the future of empty container transport and storage improvement efforts

By Rob McKay | September 15, 2010

A Melbourne port supply chain meeting tomorrow could decide the future of empty container transport and storage improvement efforts.

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) believes that moves to tackle congestion issues surrounding the performance in and around empty container parks (ECP) could hit "a fork in the road" if agreement is not reached.

Promisingly, those supply-chain players who formed two working groups earlier in the year to examine the issues have agreed last month to create a combined Empty Container Park Operations Group.

It contains representatives from the VTA, Shipping Australia Limited (SAL), the Custom Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia, and each of the park operators, with the Port of Melbourne Corporation (PoMC) providing the chair and secretariat services for the Group.

It is the outcome of the group’s first meeting that has the VTA hopes will see SAL’s shipping line members agree to pass on park costs for extending opening times from 7am-4pm to 6am-6pm.

"Pleasingly, every ECP in Melbourne, apart from Patrick Coode Park, have agreed to open these longer hours, provided that they receive additional funding to cover the added costs of labour, equipment use and administration," VTA Deputy CEO Neil Chambers says.

"This is likely to equal approximately $15 to $18 per container.

"The actual figure is a matter for individual parks.

"The VTA has called on ECPs to implement a levy on their shipping lines clients to cover these additional costs.

"In return, road transport carriers have undertaken to use the extended hours effectively, and for that use to be monitored by the PoMC to ensure that additional efficiencies in the empty container transport chain are realised.

"This will go a long way to ‘smoothing’ truck arrivals at ECPs, thereby reducing truck queuing and meeting growing demand for empty container receival and deliveries from the parks."

"We are looking for the shipping lines, through their representation by SAL, to embrace this change for the overall good of the empty container transport chain, and to ensure that the shipping lines are making an adequate service available to their clients, the importers and exporters.

"Shipping Lines will be able to pass on the additional costs to importers and exporters via an increase in the Terminal Handling Charges mechanism."

While not subscribing totally to the VTA’s position, SAL CEO Llew Russell was positive about the meeting reaching its goals, if open minds were brought to the table.

SAL believes some discipline in the truck-park relationship was crucial but that this did not have to be through an inflexible vehicle booking scheme of the sort that had raised concerns amongst VTA members.

Shipping lines were looking for transparency on extra charges that parks were levying.

Changes to opening hours would be welcome but Russell wondered if flexibility on times could reflect down times and thereby reduce costs.

That aside, he would not be drawn on the mechanism to pass on any increased costs but believed negotiation and "innovative ideas" was the path to ironing that out.

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