VICT in new charge and fees hikes on trucks

CTAA raises deep concern about ‘draconian’ Premium Slot Fee

VICT in new charge and fees hikes on trucks
More costs are being injected into Melbourne container logistics


Having gained the mantle of one of the highest charging container terminals for trucks in Australian ports, stevedore Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT) signals it refuses to be toppled any time soon.

VICT’s ‘infrastructure charge’ notice gives the two months warning the Victorian government expects, if little else, under the government’s Voluntary Pricing Protocol (VPP).

"Effective 1 July 2021, VICT will be adjusting our Infrastructure Charge to recover our increased infrastructure cost and landside system investments to be able to continue and provide high level of service for our customers," chief commercial officer Patrick Chan states.

"The revised charge is a direct-pass through to our customers to recover our on-going costs, the revised Infrastructure charge will be $141.80 (exclusive of GST) per container and will only be applicable to full export and import containers."

VICT is also reinstating the ‘Stack Run in (Empty) Fee’ of $12.50 plus GST per empty container – due "on-going challenges and resources required with the empty stack runs into the terminal" – and introducing a ‘Premium Slot Fee’ (PFS) of $109.50 payable by the transport operator for "last minute slot requests" and are not guaranteed.

"VICT are focused on providing sufficient slots for our customers while ensuring that we maintain consistent Truck Turn Times for those who have planned their movements in advance," Chan explains.

"This is achieved by issuing a maximum number of slots per hour and continually monitor demands and performance and if possible to release additional slots into the system.

"Over the past twelve months, we’ve seen an increase in requests for last-minute slots especially around Export Cut Off and Import Last Free Days.

"This has caused the system to be under extreme pressure and challenging to maintain our service level for those customers who’ve planned in advance.

"To discourage the use of last-minute slot requests and discourage some customers reliance on them, VICT will be implementing a Premium Slot Fee for slots issued over and above our regular allocations."


Port haulage sector organisation Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA) reacts with alarm at the proposals, pointing out the PFS is 600 per cent greater than the normal fee per slot of $18.25 plus GST.

"It seems to us that VICT wants to punish transport operators, and in turn their import and export customers, rather than work through the issues collaboratively as to why such additional slot requests may be on the rise," CTAA director Neil Chambers says.


Read about VICT’s last infrastructure hike, here

On the last-minute requests issue, Chambers observes that the Victorian haulage sector has "been through an unprecedented surge in full container import volumes over the last year, and vessel schedules have chopped and changed frequently, causing significant disruption to export receival timings.

"CTAA would also contend that slot requests outside of the normal "slot drop" allocation are symptomatic of the way in which VICT operates its automated stacking crane (ASC) terminal operation.

"Unlike the straddle carrier operations at the rival stevedore terminals in Melbourne, an import slot can only be booked at VICT once the position of the import container in the ASC ‘block’ is known after discharge from the vessel, and the slot is specific to that block location.

"Vessel berthing schedules at VICT frequently mean that transport operators trying to book Last Free Day import container pick-ups from one vessel are competing for slots with transport operators desperate to meet their customers’ delivery demands as soon as the import container’s block position is known following discharge from another vessel.

"Transport operators have no visibility of the number of slots dropped into the 1-Stop VBS by VICT each day.

" However, relatively frequently, transport operators are unable to obtain VBS slots because the normal allocation is exhausted. Many may question whether the high Premium Slot price might encourage profiteering by VICT.

"From an export perspective, this last year has seen many changes to port rotations with vessels calling Melbourne ahead of Sydney or another port.

"When this happens, export receival dates are brought forward, frequently stretching export supply chains to meet revised vessel export receival cut-off times.

"Also, the way VICT manages export VBS slot allocations makes it difficult for transport operators and their export customers to secure slots in a timely manner."

"VICT allows only two ‘TBA’ export slots to be booked per hour - i.e. without a matching container number and corresponding Pre-Receival Advice (PRA)."

"In many instances, this doesn’t cover the volume of export containers that need to be transported to VICT for booked export consignments. Also, it doesn’t take account of the fact that the determination of the Verified Gross Mass (VGM) of the export container – a vital element of a PRA - is done frequently after the container has been packed and is ready for transport to the wharf.

"In many instances therefore, transport operators and exporters find that the normal allocation of export slots at VICT is exhausted, and last-minute slot requests are made to meet vessel cut-offs."

"Transport operators are sympathetic to the fact that VICT has a challenging task in balancing its normal import and export slot allocations each day, made harder with the growing container throughput volumes at VICT. However, the transport management task and the supply chains they service are equally as challenging.

"Instead of seeking to ’punish’ transport operators and their import and export customers through the imposition of a draconian fee, we’d look to VICT to engage with the landside sector to comprehensively address the issues that may be contributing to last-minute vehicle booking system slot requests."

CTAA says it is writing formally to VICT under the VPP process seeking the withdrawal of the proposed PFS.


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