Next steps taken in infrastructure surcharge resistance

Road Freight NSW and CTAA submissions landing with ACCC and ASBFEO

Next steps taken in infrastructure surcharge resistance
RFNSW is one organisation seeking intervention on the DP World surcharge


Two peak transport bodies seeking to deflect a container surcharge have submissions before the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and the Australian Small Business and Family Enterprise Ombudsman (ASBFEO).

Container Transport Alliance of Australia and New South Wales peak trucking body Road Freight NSW (RFNSW) have separately sought investigations into stevedore DP World Australia’s (DPWA’s) impending ‘infrastructure surcharge’ through approaches to the two federal organisations.

In a letter to ACCC chairman Rod Sims, who is aware of the issue,

RFNSW general manager Simon O’Hara called on the ACCC investigate whether DPW Australia:

  • misused its substantial market power under s46 of the Competition and Consumer Act
  • engaged in unconscionable conduct under ss 20 or 21 of the Australian Consumer Law
  • imposed the Infrastructure Surcharge in an unfair and discriminatory manner, including under the new small business unfair contract terms law.

"Our members are extremely concerned about DP World’s unilateral decision, which was announced without any consultation with industry," O’Hara says in comments expanding on his original response.

"There has been no discussion or input from carriers, just a one-page letter warning carriers that their ongoing access to the Sydney terminal is contingent on them paying up.

"DPWA has failed to justify why it’s imposing the extra levy on carriers, spinning it as an ‘Infrastructure Surcharge’.

"We have no understanding as to how they reached this decision, and given they have not consulted with industry, we still do not understand their rationale."

O’Hara insists that the decision is anti-competitive, discriminatory and unfair.

He has sought information from state government department Transport for NSW on how DPWA’s action squares with the Ports and Maritime Administration Regulation, which states new charges or increasing existing ones needed 60 days’ notice and detailed reasons provided.

RFNSW argues to the ACCC that cost items DPWA mentions as reasons for the Port Botany surcharge, such as council rates, land tax, rent and terminal infrastructure maintenance, "all relate to costs in running a business and are part of their normal leasing / operating costs.

"If carriers purchase a new truck or trailer to service our clients it is an expense to grow with our clients. We are not clients of the stevedores, the shipping lines are their clients.

"If they wish to increase charges or implement capital cost recovery measures, the fees should be collected by the various shipping lines and passed on through the commercial invoice to customs brokers, freight forwarders, importers and exporters as they did with WIMS (weigh-in-motion systems)."

It is awaiting a response.

RFNSW also argues that DPWA demands payment in seven days when its members are able to recoup costs on their customers’ terms of 30 days or more.  

For its part, the CTAA has written to both government organisations charging that DPWA has:

  • acted in a manner which is an unfair use of market power;
  • been unconscionable in its conduct
  • acted in a discriminatory manner.

"If these massive Infrastructure Surcharges are allowed to stand, the cost impost and cash flow implications for small business in particular will be considerable," it says. 

"Logistics providers will be forced to add administrative and other costs onto the Surcharge when passed onto freight forwarders, importers and exporters.  

"The cost of carrying this debt will contribute to some smaller transport operators going to the wall." 

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