Big ship to test Melbourne containerchain

Victoria International Container Terminal’s first vessel puts handling to test

Big ship to test Melbourne containerchain
Webb Dock is about to get its first huge containership


Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT) will break its duck next Sunday, when one of the biggest containerships ever seen in Melbourne calls at its Webb Dock terminal.

The E.R. Long Beach, controlled by Mediterranean Shipping Company (MSC) and with a capacity of 7,455 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU) of containers, will trouble traditional Yarra River berths at Swanson Dock.

The advent of such ships has been a point of landside concern, mostly due to peaks and troughs in terminal and port approaches congestion, but haulage firms and their drivers also have hurdles, including Maritime Security Identification Card (MSIC) accreditation.

"Export container receivals for the vessel commence in earnest from Monday, 20th February," Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA) director Neil Chambers says.

"This has necessitated container transport operators registering with VICT through 1-Stop to use the Vehicle Booking System (VBS), and drivers completing their on-line MSIC inductions – again through 1-Stop – before they can access the Terminal."

But CTAA warns there are a number of transport interface aspects to be worked through with senior management at VICT which impact on truck servicing and productivity." Chambers says.

"Key among these issues is the instruction from VICT that all containers be delivered ‘doors rear’. This accommodates the operation of the Automated Stacking Cranes (ASC) and the presentation of containers through the automated system to the ship’s side for loading ‘doors rear’.

"Similarly, import containers will be loaded onto trucks ‘doors rear’."

Chambers notes this has major implications for road transport operators being compliant with heavy vehicle axle weight restrictions. 

It also impacts on exporter and importer instructions where the container doors may need to be orientated differently, particularly when side-loaders are used.

"In other Australian container terminals employing similar stacking crane technology – i.e. DP World, Port of Brisbane – the stevedore provides a service to turn boxes, with an associated fee," he says. 

"We want VICT to do the same."

To assist in understanding the scale of the issue, CTAA is conducting a survey of Melbourne container transport operators to gauge the frequency of containers being delivered and picked up from stevedore terminals ‘doors front’.

"It’s a major issue, particularly for our heavy agricultural exports." Chambers says. 

"We need to find a solution that doesn’t reduce landside productivity and efficiency, or drives up costs unduly.

Other issues being addressed include several fees to be imposed by VICT, and the management of container weight and truck weight information.

"VICT will weigh all export containers, and will compare the declared weight against the actual weight recorded," Chambers says. 

"Where the declared container Verified Gross Mass (VGM) varies by more than 500kg, VICT will update the gross mass information used for ship loading.

"VICT planned to impose a charge of $130 on the container transport operator for the VGM update administration.  In our view, however, the Pre Receival Advice [PRA] declarant should be charged this fee, as they are responsible by law to declare the Verified Gross Mass [VGM]." Chambers said.

"Also, we are encouraging VICT to pass on mis-declared weights information to the Australian Maritime Safety Authority [AMSA] for enforcement action.

"To their credit, VICT has agreed to suspend the VGM Update Fee while investigations continue as to how best to impose the fee on the parties responsible in the supply chain for the accurate declaration of export container gross mass."

"We are also working through the issue of the practical use of the truck weigh-in-motion devices that will provide axle group and overall vehicle weights to the driver as they depart the Terminal."

"We are assisting VICT to organise a discussion with VicRoads and the National Heavy Vehicle Regulator [NHVR] about meeting their ‘loading manager’ obligations under the Chain of Responsibility provisions in the Heavy Vehicle National Law [HVNL]."

Given the considerable variables in axle and gross loading limits depending on vehicle combination, mass accreditation and permits, the heavy vehicle driver has the direct responsibility to ensure that they do not carry the load on a public road unless they are within the weight limits allowed. 

The Weigh-In-Motion read-out will provide accurate information to the driver," Chambers says. 

"If containers need to be removed, the Terminal is clearly entitled to charge for that additional service.

"The 1-Stop Vehicle Booking System (VBS) will also work differently at VICT than it does at the two incumbent stevedores in Melbourne.  T

"his may take some getting used to, and fleet controllers will need to become familiar with the differences.

"The good thing is that the ‘mad minute’ created by the daily time slot-drop orchestrated by the other stevedores is removed.  However for imports, you can only book a slot once the container is discharged and its yard position is known.  The way transport companies schedule their fleet operations will need to adapt accordingly."


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