More ladders than snakes for Asciano volumes

March quarter snapshot sees logistics gains and intermodal east-west trade declines

More ladders than snakes for Asciano volumes
Asciano’s new Pacific National train support facility at Greta in the Hunter Valley.


Asciano’s operational spread has meant declines in some areas have been met with increases in others, its quarterly volumes report shows.

On the negative side was a a fall in intermodal net tonnes per kilometre of 5.8 per cent from 5,445 to 5,129 for this year’s March quarter compared with last year’s.

Intermodal 20-foot equivalent (teu) container numbers also fell, by 4.7 per cent, from 161,700 to 154,100.

The decline reflected "ongoing weakness in East-West volumes", while steel volumes "were flat for the quarter".  

Against that, its terminals operations saw container lifts and teu handled up 6.8 and 5.1 per cent respectively, while coal haulage growth was above 40 per cent in the north-east of the country and around 15 per cent in the south-east.

The container lifts rise, from 444,000 to 474,000, was "driven by underlying growth in customer volume for existing services of approximately 2.2 per cent, the commencement of the K Line contract in Fremantle, the contribution from a new service by an existing customer and the upsizing of another customer service all of which offset the negative impact of the loss of the CAX service following its cessation in March 2013".

"The Division has recently secured three new services into East Swanson Dock in Melbourne: a 15,000 lift pa service secured in a recent contract tender; and two new contracts with proforma volume totalling 25,000 lifts commencing in April, representing container volume shifting from Webb Dock to East Swanson Dock as a result of the redevelopment of Webb Dock,"  Asciano reports.

Logistics teu fell 9.9 per cent "impacted by material weakness in transport and rail volumes from Northern Victoria and into South Australia".

The intermodal arm is in the midst of digesting Toll Queensland rail terminals

"This transaction will provide a key strategic position in the Queensland intermodal market," Asciano says. 

"Integration of these facilities is substantially underway."

Bulk Ports Stevedoring were affected by "lower volumes on the Agility contract, reflecting the wind down of that contract and lower volumes across a number of regional ports reflecting a slowdown in agricultural, general cargo and car volumes over the quarter".

Automotive services reported further growth in storage days in the quarter over the pcp. However storage days have declined 20 per cent since the peak in January, reflecting lower car import volumes.

"We continue to expect to deliver low single digit growth in underlying net profit after tax in FY14 with stronger than expected growth in coal and container volumes combined with a strong focus on reducing overhead costs, offsetting weaker than expected volumes in export grain, intermodal and bulk ports," Asciano CEO John Mullen states.

"FY14 capital expenditure is expected to be in the range of $700-800m including the Pacific National acquisition of rail terminal properties in Queensland."

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