VTA hails container park hours progress

Second shipping line goes for longer access hours for empty containers at Melbourne's port

By Ruza Zivkusic | January 10, 2011

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) is calling on shipping lines to financially support container park operators so they can extend their opening hours.

CC Containers will extend its hours from January 17 for six months, but for Mediterranean Shipping Company containers only.

This follows Maersk Line’s announcement in December that it would do so at the MRS empty container park.

CC Containers Managing Director David Muir says many shipping lines expressed interest in extending their hours but backed down due to Shipping Australia Limited "influencing" their views, he adds.

"We invited all of our customers and they were all party to the Melbourne Empty Container Park Working Group (chaired by the Port of Melbourne Corporation), most of them indicated in November that they would look favourably in participating in the trial but to date we have only received one confirmation," Muir says.

"We’re very disappointed; my personal belief is that mixed messages have been sent by Shipping Australia."

MSC containers have agreed to participate in the trial at CC Containers depot during the paid service.

Muir hopes the trial will turn into a permanent feature.

VTA Deputy Chief Executive Officer Neil Chambers says transport companies now need to use the extended hours so the trial becomes permanent.

"We call on all container shipping lines servicing the Port of Melbourne to negotiate in good faith with their empty container management providers to reach agreement on funding the reasonable additional costs of extended operating hours," Chambers says.

"Stop listening to the protectionist ramblings of your peak association, Shipping Australia Limited, and start listening to your customers’ needs for improved empty park operating hours and practices.

"This is not about any short-term peak in empty container volumes this season, whether or not this has materialised, or is yet to do so.

"This is about effective change that will benefit the long-term future of the Port of Melbourne."

Shipping Australia Limited Chief Executive Officer Llew Russell blames cost as a factor for shipping lines showing little interest in the trial, and believes the VTA is "forcing" hismembers to "break the law".

"We don’t have exemption to agree on any common condition or rates relating to container parks collectively," Russell says.

"Neil Chambers doesn’t seem to understand that; he’s crossing the bar and talks about collective agreement.

"We want to see parks be more efficient but it takes two to negotiate and they’re having great difficulty in coming to a reasonable increase in costs, that’s the feedback I’m getting.

"We applaud those parks for extending the hours, but we urge the other parks to be more realistic and transparent, if they’re serious they have to sit down and negotiate with their own contractors on the basis of the actual costs and to justify the increase in charges.

"We’ve been doing a lot of work to try and resolve this rather than just issuing press releases, which seems to be the task of Mr Chambers without doing much to resolve issues.

"We’re more interested in resolving issues rather than just talking about it."

CC Containers will be open from 6.30am-6pm Monday to Friday and on Saturday mornings from 7am-11am during the trial.

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