Maersk trials extended opening times


Shipping line Maersk will trial extended opening times at a container depot in Melbourne

By Rob McKay | December 17, 2010

Shipping line Maersk’ intention to trial extended opening times at the MRS container depot in Melbourne has received a warm response from the Victorian Transport Association (VTA).

The Yarraville depot will open an extra three and a half hours Monday to Friday from January 17, with opening pulled back 90 minutes to 6am and closing to be two hours later at 6pm, Maersk revealed today.

"We hope that the extension of MRS operating hours will contribute to greater landside efficiency and a reduction of the environmental impact that many of the congestion and waiting time issues currently have on the Melbourne area," Maersk Operations Manager Andrew Cumming says.

The trial extension is planned to run for six months during which time Maersk Line says it will monitor the use of the extended hours and periodic reviews will be held.

While the VTA welcomed the move, it kept a steady stream of fire trained on peak body Shipping Australia (SAL).

"We sincerely congratulate Maersk Line on its cooperative approach to working with all landside stakeholders to improve empty container chain operating efficiencies in Melbourne," VTA Deputy CEO Neil Chambers says.

"Maersk is the first shipping line to heed the call from landside stakeholders, strongly supported by the VTA, to underwrite the additional costs or extended operating hours for container parks.

"The vision and leadership displayed by Maersk should not be lost on importers and exporters, and their transport service providers.

"Everybody should consider shipping with Maersk ahead of other lines because they display this kind of willingness to cooperate with others to help improve the transport chain."

Chambers accused SAL of issuing mixed messages and being "belligerent" in Melbourne, compared with other major ports, where the lines "have passed the reasonable cost increases onto importers and exporters through increased terminal handling charges, and everyone has got on with life".

"Indeed, in the most recent Shipping Australia magazine (Summer 2010), SAL CEO Llew Russell admits that empty container parks in Melbourne have suffered long truck queues and congestion, and is quoted as saying that SAL has a strong desire to improve empty container park operating hours," Chambers says.

"Yet, at an industry level, SAL has refused to accept that shipping lines have the responsibility to pay reasonable additional costs for extended park operating hours in Melbourne."

SAL also welcomed the move but Russell, pointing out that Maersk-owned MRS only handles Maersk containers, was on the front foot to the VTA criticism.

Russell says Chambers was "completely wrong" to suggest that SAL was sending out different policy messages.

"We do support the improvement in empty container park operations including extended operating hours but the real questions as we have raised all along relates to who pays for those extended hours," he says.

"The comment that at the industry level, SAL has refused to accept that shipping lines have responsibility to pay reasonable additional costs for extended park operating hours in Melbourne is simply because it is illegal to do so collectively which we have carefully explained to Mr Chambers but he has refused to acknowledge that important point.

"We will now be referring his comments directly to the ACCC for investigation as he is urging a group of competitors to break the trade practices law."

Russell says it is up to container parks and shipping lines that use them to determine who pays. He says it is necessary for container parks to be clear on how they will spend the extra money and how they will incur the costs of opening longer with no greater volume in trade.

"What perplexes us most is that Neil Chambers suggests that shipping lines have accepted the need to fund the added costs for extended empty container park operating hours in other major capital city ports, without major resistance," Russell says.

"Perhaps he is referring to the infrastructure charge because of the high land rental costs paid by empty container parks in Sydney and Brisbane."

Chambers has queried why the belligerent stance in Melbourne where in fact threatening to go into the trenches is such an immature approach to the issue that is not worth commenting on."

Russell says it is important that those benefiting from extended operating hours contribute to the additional costs of doing so.

"There has been consistent policy advocated by SAL and clearly the VTA is not at all interested in working cooperatively on this issue," he says.


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