Stevedore puts bigger hook into trucking

DP World Australia shuffles charges and penalties cards during crisis

Stevedore puts bigger hook into trucking
Container charges and penalties are a point of contention


As container trucking grapples with coronavirus Covid-19 impacts on operations, another burden was thrown on the sector’s back with a stevedore charges move aimed squarely at it.

So far, Western Australia has escaped DP Wold Australia’s (DPWA’s) latest move, which centres on Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne.

"Customers are advised that from 1 May 2020, DP World Australia will begin differentiating Access Charges for laden import and export containers, with lower charge for … for road operators," DPWA says.

"The change is designed to support Australian farmers and exporters, while global trade continues to be impacted by the crisis response to COVID-19."

The announcement for Queensland mentions Container Terminal Ancillary Charges changes, too " ensure vital trade is able to flow" affecting:

  • Manual Processing Fee
  • No Show Fee
  • Chain of Responsibility Fee
  • Chain of Responsibility Overweight Fee.

That for Melbourne mentions the first two and none are mentioned for Sydney.

The charges will apply to all full containers received or delivered via road.

Full containers received or delivered via rail will be charged to the rail operator as a separate item on rail invoices.

The move elicited a typically trenchant response from Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA), which says it has been described as "tone deaf" by transport operators and others in the container logistics chain, coming in the midst of the coronavirus crisis.

"At a time when the Australian economy is under significant strain, DP World Australia (a majority owned entity of Dubai-based DP World) sees fit to raise its landside terminal access pricing for full import containers, and for some other access charges levied on container transport operators. It beggars belief." stated CTAA director Neil Chambers says in a statement that emphasis the international nature of the costs pressures being brought to bear on Australian interests.

"This foreign-owned company, in a pseudo monopoly position within the container logistics chain, has shown little regard for container transport operators facing a significant cash-flow squeeze, or for Australia’s importers who from May will pay significantly more for landside terminal access once the fees are passed through the supply chain by transport operators."

"It’s all about their bottom line and not about the general welfare of the container logistics chain in these unprecedented times.

"This is at a time when many importers, large and particularly small, are facing unprecedented interruptions in their supply chains, while the whole landside logistics sector has significant cashflow concerns, with worst possibly to come if further stages of economic "lockdown" are implemented by governments.

"CTAA has written formally to DP World Australia on two occasions since the start of the pandemic, asking what the stevedore company could do to work with transport operators and others in the chain who are experiencing real cash-flow concerns. CTAA received no response to both letters … we now know why … they were plotting this bombshell delivered late on a Friday afternoon after a stressful week for many."

Outrage was also felt around Port Botany and relayed by Road Freight NSW.

"Only last week, RFNSW reported how some of our members were owed over $100,000 in overdue invoices," RFNSW chief executive Simon O’Hara tells ATN.

"Truckies are doing it tough, facing increasingly worse cash-flow constraints.

"Yet in the middle of what is now a deepening global crisis, DP World Australia, sees fit to again, unilaterally raise access infrastructure charges without consultation from its under pressure ‘cash cow’, the freight industry .

"This multi-national has shown itself to be opportunist. Prepared to snub the State Minister Andrew Constance and go against the Prime Minister’s view and community expectations that we all do our bit during this time of CoVID-19 business closures, job losses, unpaid invoices, and widespread fear within the community.

"Road Freight NSW has called on the NSW Government to stop the stevedores, right now during this crisis, from charging these types of increases and regulate stevedores more fully and ensure compliance particularly with regards to infrastructure access charges which continue to grow despite the last increase coming in on 1 January 2020 from DPWA."

Read about Patrick Terminals’ charges move in January, here

Meanwhile, CTAA charges that DPWA’s decreases in their infrastructure charges on full container exports aim to counter the move by rival Patrick Terminals in January to differentiate the access price for exports.

"But, they have made up for the export fee decreases by raising terminal access fees for full container imports in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane," Chambers says.

"As the majority flow of container trade in these ports is imports, DP World will be collecting far more fees from imports than exports."

He also takes the cudgels to differing penalties in each state.

"Another major fee increase announced relates to truck interaction with their terminals," Chambers says.

"Trucks that do not arrive for their booked slot are charged a No-Show Fee. In Melbourne and Brisbane, this is to climb from $150.25 per event to $210.35 – an increase of 40%, with no negotiation or justification."

He notes that the No-Show Fee increase didn’t occur in Port Botany, where mandatory regulatory standards apply to the landside terminal interface.

"Also, none of these fee increases have been applied in Fremantle, where the WA Government and the state-owned port authority, Fremantle Ports, took a dim view of DP World’s previous landside fee increases announced in January this year."

CTAA questions whether mandatory interface regulations are required in Melbourne and Brisbane, or at least pricing regulation, which CTAA and other industry voices have been calling on governments to consider for a long time.

"These latest announcements also reinforce the need for more balanced service standards to be either negotiated with DP World Australia, or imposed through regulation," Chambers says.

"At the beginning of the Vehicle Booking System (VBS) in Australia over 27 years’ ago, transport operators accepted that there needed to be ‘disciplines’ imposed to ensure that terminal slot capacity was not lost, and for on-time truck arrival behaviour to be encouraged."

"However, a No-Show fee of $210.35 is simply draconian and unfair.

"And, in some instances, No-Show fees are incurred after terminal disruptions have impacted on subsequent truck trips to terminals for some period of time after the disruption.

"Terminals can waive these fees, but it’s entirely at their discretion under the one-sided, forced access agreements between the terminal and transport operators. Except in Port Botany where the mandatory standards apply."

ATN has sought comment from affected state governments.


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