Patrick defends truck charge

Patrick takes issue with complaints about passing on rate increases from the Port of Brisbane Corporation

By Rob McKay | September 30, 2010

Patrick has taken issue with the Queensland Trucking Association (QTA) on its complaints about passing on of rate increases from the Port of Brisbane Corporation.

The QTA reacted bitterly two weeks ago to the intention of both Patrick and DP World to impose infrastructure levies on trucks of $17.75 and $18.30 for each container.

The stevedores have faced cost increases of four-fold over the past five years and little clarity has come from the Queensland Government, the present port corporation or competition watchdogs on what limits, if any, will affect the privatised port operator’s ability to raise charges further.

A Patrick spokeswoman confirmed that road transport was the target for recouping a percentage of extra costs and says these charges will likely increase once a third stevedore begins operations.

"On 23 August 2010, Patrick informed its road transport and shipping line customers of its decision to introduce a infrastructure surcharge on October 1," the spokeswoman says.

"This followed a letter dated 21 July foreshadowing that Patrick was considering introducing such a charge."

The spokeswoman says Patrick representatives met the QTA and affected stakeholders on September 9 to discuss the charge.

Following discussions, she says the stevedore decided to delay the fee by three weeks to October 25. The company says operators will now have eight weeks to prepare.

"Patrick has also agreed to delay the recovery of the charge from 25 October till December 6 (this includes the surcharge and VBS fees which Patrick currently recovers from road operator customers) - this will provide road operator customers with a further six weeks in which to manage their working capital," the spokeswoman says.

She says the charge is being introduced to cover Patrick’s infrastructure costs, which have quadrupled since 2005.

"Patrick has worn the cost of the increases since 2005 without passing these increases on."

According to the spokeswoman, Patrick is trying to recoup costs from trucking operators benefiting from the stevedore’s investment in landside operations.
"The investment that Patrick has made in its landside operations directly benefit its road operator customers, with shorter queues and world class service levels," she says, adding that costs are not recovered from shipping lines.

The charges are directly linked to the costs associated with road operators, Patrick claims, and the new fees might also benefit trucking companies.

"Patrick also explained on 9 September that the introduction of a third operator will inevitably lead to a reduction in volume at Patrick's terminal so a decision to vary the price based on volume would be unlikely to advantage road operators," the spokeswoman says.

QTA CEO Peter Garske says the association will question the legality of the charges Patrick intends to pass on.

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