Patrick fee increase riles ATA

Patrick Stevedores' decision to increase trucking charges at Port Botany sparks angry response from industry

Patrick fee increase riles ATA
Patrick charge increase riles ATA
By Brad Gardner | March 16, 2011

Patrick Stevedores is facing a backlash from the trucking industry after it announced yesterday it will increase slot booking and phone booking charges at Port Botany.

The terminal operator will more than double the slot booking charge from $4.75 to $9.75 from March 28, while the phone booking fee will increase from $15 to $20 on the same date.

Patrick claims the increase is due to the cost of complying with the Port Botany Landside Improvement Strategy (PBLIS), but the NSW branch of the Australian Trucking Association says transport operators should not bear the cost.

In a message to ATA NSW members, manager Jill Lewis says Patrick should recoup higher running costs from the shipping lines.

"ATA NSW is considering lodging a formal complaint about Patrick’s plan with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, as well with the incoming government after the state election," Lewis writes.

She is also critical of Patrick’s timing, saying trucking operators will have less than two weeks to tell their customers about the increases.

During a meeting with the stevedore yesterday, Lewis argued the increase was too high and that operators should be given more notice.

Patrick gave Sydney Ports the required 60 days notice that it intended to lift charges. The stevedore says Sydney Ports has confirmed it will not oppose the decision.

In a letter to the trucking industry, Patrick’s Sydney terminal manager Scott Forster writes that charges need to be increased to cover the costs incurred from establishing and administering its PBLIS obligations.

Trucking operators and stevedores are monitored under PBLIS, which fines vehicles that arrive late or not at all and penalises stevedores if trucks are forced to queue for lengthy periods.

Forster says there are significant infrastructure costs in complying with PBLIS, such as installing cameras and clocks at entry points to the terminals to monitor vehicles. He says Patrick is also incurring costs to train staff and administer invoices. Trucks must be fitted with tags to measure the length of time they spend at container terminals.

"The increase is the specific result of costs associated with the IT system development and maintenance requirements to provide and interpret information specific to the regulation and reciprocal penalties," he says.

A spokeswoman for Patrick says the stevedore indicated to the trucking industry it would need to increase charges due to PBLIS.

Because PBLIS applies to stevedores and the trucking industry, the spokeswoman says shipping lines should not face higher charges to cover Patrick's compliance costs.

"It wouldn’t be responsible to charge the shipping lines for that cost," she says.

The spokeswoman questioned the NSW ATA’s decision to consider lodging a complaint with the ACCC because Patrick complied with the 60-day notification requirement and Sydney Ports approved the new charges.

"It’s our legal understanding that there is no legal precedent to what they are seeking," she says.

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