TIC gives NTC carriage of stevedore container access charges

Transport ministers seek national bureaucratic fix rather than reform

TIC gives NTC carriage of stevedore container access charges
The NTC is to look into access charges


The nation’s transport ministers have acknowledged collectively that the container logistics chain has developed concerning characteristics and have handed the issue to bureaucrats for a soft-touch approach.

In a paragraph at the bottom of the latest Transport and Infrastructure Council (TIC) communiqué, state and federal ministers eschew reform or regulation in favour of a fix that threatens to accept and cement the present situation at major port container terminals.

"Ministers endorsed for the National Transport Commission [NTC] to develop voluntary national guidelines for applying stevedore infrastructure and access charges (both their introduction and increase) at Australia’s container ports," the communiqué reads.

"The introduction and setting of charges at container ports has flow-on effects throughout the supply chain.

"The development of these guidelines will provide greater certainty and transparency for both stevedores and landside transport operators and support continued investment in terminal facilities."

The tenor of the move is consistent with two Victorian reports touching on the issue that advocate against regulation and in favour of a more transparent status quo: the Deloitte Access Economics Port Pricing and Access Review report, reasoning for which the state government refuses to release, and the Essential Services Commission (ESC) Port of Melbourne – Market Rent Inquiry 2020 pubic report, which the ESC notes could not address policy matters.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s (ACCC’s) latest ‘Container stevedoring monitoring report’ effectively puts the financial burden of the charges last financial year at $256 million, not counting increases in other charges in the container logistics system.

Read what the ACCC’s latest monitoring report reveals, here

Industry players and observers view container access charges as both a burden on consumers and exporters and a symptom of a container logistics chain in need of remedial action and reform.

"It’s been Queensland’s position that the federal government should lead any review and action on higher freight costs being passed on to consumers and manufacturers," transport and main roads minister Mark Bailey tells ATN when asked about the broader picture.

"Increasing landside access charges impacts productivity and costs to the supply chain across the national economy.

"It doesn’t make sense to manage this issue through an inconsistent patchwork of varying state-based regulatory approaches.

"It's my hope that these guidelines can provide greater certainty and transparency for stevedores and landside transport operators around their obligations, and support continued investment in terminal facilities."

In what is likely to be a message repeated in other states, Freight Victoria executive director Praveen Reddy, at the Department of Transport adds some detail to the move for the industry in that state.   

"Taking a national approach will support consistency between Australian ports," Reddy says.

"The National Transport Commission, as the national land transport reform agency, will lead this work and will engage with industry and jurisdictions on developing the guidelines.

"This work will include consideration of the Victorian Government’s Voluntary Port of Melbourne Performance Model and similar schemes.

"Draft guidelines will be provided to the infrastructure and transport ministers for endorsement."


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