CTAA underlines lack of infrastructure surcharge oversight

Chambers cites lack of political and regulatory concern as facilitating hike

CTAA underlines lack of infrastructure surcharge oversight
Neil Chambers says it's time haulage firms had their own surcharges


Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA) has sheeted responsibility for continued hikes in stevedores’ ‘infrastructure surcharges’ back to governments and regulators.

The body points out DP World Australia’s (DPWA’s) most recent announcement comes only six months after it implemented a 900 per cent increase in Melbourne and introduced a new surcharge in Port Botany and Fremantle and reflects industry puzzlement at why

 DPWA failed to forecast these cost increases back in March and factor them in.

"All businesses have faced rising energy price rises and have been able to forecast these increases CTAA director Neil Chambers says.

"Also, in Melbourne and Sydney, DPWA has known for some time what their negotiated property rent increases were going to be. So why now the further Surcharge gouge?" asked.

"One conclusion is that DPWA believes that they weathered the storm of opposition to the initial increases, with barely a murmur from regulators such as the ACCC, or from Federal and State Governments.

"So, they simply thought they’d go again to make up their revenue shortfall from dropping their stevedoring rates charged to shipping lines."

Chambers describes such regulatory response as there has been as a a "wet lettuce" exercise from the ACCC pledging to monitor the situation, "and barely a peep from other regulatory agencies or incumbent governments".

"Land transport operators – road and rail – and shippers alike feel abandoned by this, and the lack of regulatory price oversight has now led to a free-for-all," Chambers adds.

"We say it again … transport operators have no input into the quantum of the surcharges, no say in where the money will be spent to supposedly improve landside-stevedore productivity and efficiency, and no choice other than to pay the fees or risk being locked out of the stevedore terminals

"Also, while it is acknowledged that DPWA has eventually heeded requests to extend their payment terms to 28 days, the quantum of the announced increases more than negates any cash-flow relief delivered."

"The larger transport operators in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane who cart the majority of the containers in each port, individually now incur fees from the stevedores for the vehicle booking system [VBS] and infrastructure surcharges of over $300,000 per month.

"This impost will increase further from next year.

"We will not be surprised if these fee increases contribute to some transport providers going to the wall … honest, hardworking people who have to deal with DPWA dictating all of the terms."

CTAA says the situation is exacerbated as transport operators in some ports, particularly in Melbourne, also continue to suffer delays and poor DPWA performance.

"For example, a big issue at present is the lack of slots and capacity provided by DPWA to accept direct empty container de-hires to wharf as directed by shipping lines," Chambers says.

"And in Melbourne particularly, it is next to impossible to marry up an empty container return slot with a corresponding import pick up slot in the VBS.

"This means that more empty containers are being staged back through transport yards, unwanted additional truck kilometres and container lifts are incurred, and trucks cannot be scheduled to undertake a two-way run.

"This inefficiency comes at a significant cost to transport operators."

With stevedore surcharges growing and some other facility owners following suit in Sydney, Chambers raises the possibility of container haulage firms injecting their own brand of cost recovery into the container chain.

"Given the empty direct to wharf de-hire situation alone, there is a pressing need for transport operators to consider surcharges of their own to their customers to recover the costs of DP World’s continuing inefficiencies and delays," he says.

"It’s become the year of the 'free-for-all' in surcharges, so why not?

"Transport operators should push back commercially given the significant additional costs that they are incurring on top of having to bankroll the stevedore Infrastructure fees."

CTAA says it will continue to agitate for:

  • a full government-led review of the relationship between stevedore rates to shipping lines, terminal handling charges (THCs) applied by shipping lines to shippers, and the implementation and quantum of the infrastructure surcharges levied by the stevedores on transport operators;
  • an investigation of the "unfair" structure of DP World’s national carrier access agreement (NCAA), and the benefits that would be derived by negotiated, individual service level agreements (SLAs) between transport operators and stevedore companies; and
  • the establishment of independent monitoring of key stevedore performance indicators, including: accurate truck turnaround time (TTT) and container turn time (CTT) measurement in all ports; VBS slot capacities per time zone; truck utilisation rates, stevedore practices that limit "two-way running" opportunities; and stevedore infrastructure expenditure that improves landside logistics interface performance. 

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