No barriers to Qube MCS takeover

ACCC says Cook River Container Park alternatives will deter Qube from discrimination

No barriers to Qube MCS takeover
Access to rail facilities, through the Cook River Container Park, is important for regional exporters, the ACCC says


The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will not oppose Qube Holdings’ acquisition of Maritime Container Services (MCS) after completing an investigation into the purchase.

Qube acquired MCS for $92.3 million on December 27, but committed to keeping the company’s Sydney empty container park operations separate from its own assets until March 15 pending the review.

The ACCC investigation focused on the supply chain for containerised freight through Port Botany, and what impact the sale of MCS, which controls the Cooks River container park, would have on competition for rail container transport services between the port and regional NSW.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims says it is important regional exporters and rail operators have access to empty container parks with rail facilities, such as Cook River, which enable them to re-load their trains with empty containers for the return trip to an exporter’s facility.

"While there are a limited number of these types of empty container parks in Sydney, there appear to be sufficient choices for Qube’s rivals in rail, stevedoring and logistics," Sims says.

"The alternative empty container parks with rail access will provide exporters in regional NSW and rail operators the option of moving to other facilities if they consider they are receiving less favourable treatment from Qube."

The ACCC also says it is unlikely Qube will leverage the operation of MCS to preference Patrick Stevedores, in which it holds a 50 per cent stake, because of the availability of alternative empty container parks and the role of shipping lines in choosing stevedores.

"Some large regional exporters have already moved to alternative container parks," Sims says.

"The threat of continued switching by customers limits the impact of discriminatory behaviour by Qube and may also act to constrain Qube from engaging in such behaviour in the first place."

The ACCC had opposed the acquisition of MCS by POTA, a Qube predecessor company, in 2009, because POTA operated another empty container park with rail access at the time.

That container park now operated by a competitor to Qube, which the ACCC says will be able to constrain Qube in its operation of MCS.

Road Freight NSW will keep an watching brief on the outcome.

"RFNSW will be monitoring the situation very closely to see if there are any substantive changes to the MCS operation and whether our members are negatively impacted by it," RFNSW general nanager Simon O’Hara says" 


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