Industry questions Port Botany congestion plan

By: Rob McKay

Sydney container trucking warns action may be counterproductive

Industry questions Port Botany congestion plan
There are concerns around NSW Ports’ Port Botany plan


The Sydney container haulage sector is questioning how deeply Port Botany operator NSW Ports has thought through its plans ease truck queue congestion.

For safety reasons, NSW Ports has designated broad empty container park (ECP) queuing areas around the port precinct but warned that combinations unable to fit wholly into the areas will be moved on.

One possible unintended consequence raised with NSW Ports by Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA) may be a heightening of congestion and decreased safety due to trucks circulating the precinct waiting for a space to open up without knowing when that has happened.

It also points to queuing issue related to terminals operated by stevedores Patrick and Hutchison.

A related issue is that ECPs have advised container truck operators that their containers are available.

It is understood this is an aspect NSW Ports raised with ECPs, seemingly to little effect, as mentioned in its announcement of its anti-congestion plans.

Read how NSW Ports revealed its anti-congestion plan, here

"While safety is paramount, the NSW Ports’ Direction is dealing with the symptom of the congestion, not the direct causes," CTAA director Neil Chambers tells his members in a commentary on the development.

"The ECPs in Port Botany continue to operate at or above capacity because not enough empty containers have been (or are being) evacuated by shipping lines to reduce the considerable surplus of empties that have been allowed to build up over many months.

"The ‘Load / Discharge Ratio’ of container imports (full & empty) compared with container exports (full and empty) continues to show a surplus of containers in NSW of approx. 50,000 TEU. 

"The evacuation efforts by shipping lines to date – while laudable and ongoing – in reality haven’t made much of a dent in this surplus due to unprecedented import volumes. 

"It is expected therefore that extreme empty container management congestion will continue for some time to come.  

It has been well documented and recorded by CTAA that the landside empty container congestion in NSW is costing transport operators conservatively approx. $130 per container in additional handling, transport and administrative costs.   

"Any enforcement penalties for trucks ‘illegally’ parked or queuing in non-designated areas in the Port precinct with simply add to this cost burden."

CTAA says it and its alliance companies continue to engage with the NSW government, Transport for NSW, NSW Ports, shipping lines, ECPs and other landside stakeholders and representative bodies to try to address the issues in the short, medium and longer term. 

This includes through the NSW Empty Container Working Group (ECWG) and the NSW Port Transport & Logistics Taskforce (PTLT).

"It is anticipated that the designated areas for truck queuing being provided by NSW Ports will not be adequate to accommodate the current queuing situation," Chambers says, though it is understood NSW Ports believes the situation is gradually easing. 

"CTAA has raised whether the Port Botany Truck Marshalling Area (TMA) might be able to be used in the future as a holding point for trucks ‘queuing’ to be serviced at ECPs in the Port precinct, not just waiting for terminal time-zones to open.

"An analogy is in the Port of Fremantle where the TMA adjacent to the Port at Rous Head is linked to an App administered through the port operator Fremantle Ports. 

"Through the App, drivers can be directed to the TMA and called forward to any facility within the port precinct if a congestion situation occurs. 

"Unfortunately, there is nothing like that in Port Botany at present."

ATN has sought comment from NSW Ports.


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