Victoria releases empty container supply chain report

By: Rob McKay

CTAA seeks formation of a Melbourne Empty Container Working Group

Victoria releases empty container supply chain report
Melissa Horne during the webinar


With a view to modernising Melbourne port’s logistics system, the Strategic Review of Victoria’s Empty Container Supply Chain Report has been released and with it three main recommendations and eight sub-recommendations.

Victorian ports and freight minister Melissa Horne delivered its findings during a Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA) webinar on empty container management this week.

The review’s primary purpose was to advise the state government on how the empty container supply chain should be considered in work to develop the Voluntary Port Performance Model (VPPM).

The recommendations are:

1. Expand the VPPM to include the empty container supply chain, incorporating the following performance measures published on the Department of Transport website:

I. Load-discharge ratio, as an indicator of whether trade is generating or removing surplus empty containers

II. Container storage dwell times, empty container storage capacity and utilisation and truck turn times (TTT) at ECPs, to provide insights into the velocity of the landside component of the empty container supply chain and the interface between ECPs and transport operators

III. Direct return storage capacity and utilisation, which provides insights into the utilisation of terminal/Cargolink empty container storage capacity

IV. Provision of pre-advice information (electronic delivery order) in ECP booking systems, which provides insights into the number of empty container movements without electronic information on container return location

2. Commence discussions with stakeholders regarding the data required to publish performance measures for the empty container supply chain

3. In collaboration with industry, monitor performance of the empty container supply chain to evaluate the need for voluntary actions or market intervention that may be required in the future

4. Undertake further investigation of:

I. Further insights and performance measures for the empty container supply chain that could be gained from the Container Logistics Chain Study (CLCS) being undertaken by Port of Melbourne

II. The role of rail in the management of empty containers and future development of rail-related performance measures

III. Governance arrangements that could be put in place in the future, if required, to facilitate better communication and sharing of information among stakeholders in the container freight supply chain

IV. Further consideration of the role of industry and Government in facilitating improved performance or responding to performance issues in the future. The implications of increasing direct returns of empty containers on stevedore operations and other parts of the supply chain could be an initial area for consideration

Written by consultancy NineSquared, the report emphasises the "root causes" of port’s container logistics sectors present woes were a "confluence of factors including unpreceded demand for imports, high export volumes and issues with some specific export markets (e.g. timber), and low levels of empty container evacuation by some shipping lines".

But it also acknowledged that broader pre-Covid "commercial factors and operational practices appear to have exacerbated the impacts of these recent issues".

These included:

  • the trend towards use of large vessels, increasing the number of empty containers that will need to be moved to and from the terminals within current shifts
  • progressive changes to equipment handling practices by shipping lines
  • mismatch of operating hours across the empty container supply chain which squeezes a greater amount of container movements in a shorter timeframe and inhibits better utilisation of existing storage capacity
  • insufficient and inconsistent provision of electronic data in empty container park booking systems which creates additional administrative and operational costs to transport operators and empty container parks (ECPs)
  • redirections which adds significant transport and administrative costs to road transport operators (in particular regional operators)
  • practices by some road transport operators such as arrival without a valid booking, booking windows immediately before use and exhausting ECP/stevedore slot availability
  • the practice of not providing information on stocks of export containers at ECPs, and insufficient/inconsistent use of system features that can help prevent futile truck trips.

Read about the Voluntary Performance Monitoring Framework report, here

In welcoming the report, CTAA director Neil Chambers put the efficiency and cost effectiveness of managing empty containers through the supply chain on a par with the task of handling full import and export containers as a critical component of the overall container trade through Melbourne’s port.

"CTAA fully supports the publication through the Victorian VPPM of independent performance indicators across the whole container logistics chain," Chambers continued.

"The VPPM has commenced with indicators targeting the stevedore terminal-road transport interface.

"However, we believe it is equally important to extend those indicators to the empty container management chain.

"This will also be important for rail in the future as it begins to play a greater part in the movement of import and export containers to and from the port of Melbourne.

"You can’t address what you don’t adequately measure.

"The strategic review identifies numerous issues which are having an impact on empty container management efficiency and cost effectiveness."

CTAA underlines that this includes issues related to:

  • timely information exchange
  • lack of true ‘paperless trading’ through empty container parks, impacting on truck servicing velocity
  • mis-match of operating hours across the empty supply chain and empty ‘staging’ through transport yards
  • empty container ‘dwell times’ throughout the supply chain
  • shipping line empty-container evacuation rates through the Port of Melbourne
  • shipping line and empty container park (re)directions on de-hire locations
  • transport operational behaviours related to Notification slot bookings and truck arrival patterns
  • suitable export container equipment availability

"CTAA will be working with the Victorian Department of Transport over the coming months to establish appropriate mechanisms to encourage cooperative engagement and actions across all of the stakeholders who influence the empty container supply chain in Victoria," Chambers said.

"As has been ongoing in New South Wales through established consultative processes on empty container issues through Port Botany.

CTAA urged the Victorian government facilitate a Melbourne Empty Container Working Group comprising representatives from transport operators, empty container parks, forwarders and shippers, shipping lines, container terminals, technology providers, and the private port company Port of Melbourne Operations.

"We can only address the issues through collaborative dialogue and actions.

"All stakeholders in the container logistics chain need to appreciate each other’s viewpoints and priorities, but also consider what’s best overall for the viability and efficiency of the empty container management chain into the future."

The full report can be found here.


Subscribe to our newsletter

Sign up to receive the ATN e-newsletter, digital magazine and other offers we choose to share with you straight to your inbox

You can also follow our updates by joining our LinkedIn group or liking us on Facebook


Trucks For Hire | Forklifts For Hire | Cranes For Hire | Generators For Hire | Transportable Buildings For Hire