Bailey calls for national effort on container access charges

By: Rob McKay

Queensland wants Commonwealth leadership on a national issue

Bailey calls for national effort on container access charges
Mark Bailey


Queensland transport and main roads minister Mark Bailey is the latest relevant state minister to express concerns publicly about the inflation of container-chain costs through stevedore access charges and other measures.

Bailey’s intervention, which seeks federal leadership on a national container logistics malaise that includes international containership operators, makes a clean sweep of state transport ministers responsible for major container ports in the country looking critically at the issue.

"On stevedore charges, we have concerns about higher freight costs being passed on to consumers and manufacturers," Bailey tells ATN.

"The last thing Australian families need right now is higher prices for groceries and other essential items because of increases on the costs of getting goods through our ports.

"Considering the national implications of these charges and their impact on productivity and costs to the supply chain, it’s our view the federal government should lead any review and action on that front."


Read how critics of container access charges view Victorian efforts, here


Despite container shipping, imports and exports being national issues, federal transport minister Michael McCormack’s office has responded to recent ATN queries by showing little inclination to delve into the detail, sticking to the line that the port sphere is a state responsibility and that the federal government has no power to intervene on the actions of stevedores.

Though Victoria is furthest along the line of examining access charging, state-centric thinking is at work there too.

Regarding the Deloitte Access Economics Port Pricing and Access Review, state government sources say they have been investigating options for the government's future role regarding charges and access to and from the Port of Melbourne.

It appears to be asserted that state government’s privatisation process has essentially left it powerless in the face of a free-for-all at the port and that the stevedores are not entirely to blame for the injection of costs, pointing to the containership operators.

ATN has sought clarification on that point and how the government’s present efforts will ameliorate the problems and is awaiting a response.

"The Deloitte review showed cost pressures across the landside supply chain – however, pricing and lack of transparency is hurting our regional export cargo owners the most," one source says.

"While costs have risen as a result of increases in stevedore charges, costs being levied by others – particularly shipping lines – are arguably having a greater effect on increasing costs."

"The government will be developing a Voluntary Port of Melbourne Performance Model to deliver the action needed to address costs in the sector, through improved pricing transparency and access coordination.

"The Port of Melbourne is a landlord port. Operators set their own pricing such as terminal charges, independent of direction from the Port of Melbourne or the government.

"An independent review into Victorian ports has also commenced and is being led by independent reviewer Mark Curry, engaged by Freight Victoria."

In New South Wales, ATN is awaiting an indication of where the state Productivity Commissioner’s probe into stevedore charges, amongst other unrelated matters, has got to.


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