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McCormack to look at stevedore surcharges down track

New transport minister to wait on ACCC take before any decision


Container trucking and cargo companies looking for relief from infrastructure surcharges at port container terminals will have to wait at least eight months before new federal transport and infrastructure minister Michael McCormack examines the issue.

That is when the Australia Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) will release its annual gauge on port performance.

“Mr McCormack looks forward to the release of the ACCC’s 2017-18 Container Stevedoring Monitoring Report in November, which will give a fuller examination of the effects of infrastructure surcharges on the shipping container supply chain and wider Australian economy,” a ministerial spokesperson tells ATN.

Last year’s report pledged to look deeper into the issue.

“It is estimated that they could earn DP World and Patrick a combined $70 million in revenues, which would be equivalent to a 5-6 per cent increase in unit revenues,” that report said.

“However, the ACCC is currently unable to fully quantify the increase in revenues given that the charges have not been in place for the full year.

“The ACCC will more fully examine the impact of the infrastructure charges in the 2017-18 monitoring report.”

Before the next monitoring report, there is a possibility charging issues around ports, including stevedore infrastructure charges, will surface in the National Freight and Supply Chain Priorities report.

McCormack is expected to reveal details of Priorities report findings, from the inquiry’s expert panel, at the Australian Logistics Council (ALC) Forum tonight, though the full report may be some way off.

“It is expected the industry expert panel will provide the final report on the Freight Inquiry to the Government later this month,” the ministerial spokesperson says. 

“The timing of the report’s release will be a matter for the Government.”

Surcharge opponents presented submissions to the panel, which has a trucking industry representative in the person of former Australian Trucking Association chair David Simon.

The top three recommendations from the Australian Peak Shippers Association (APSA) and the Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA) combined submission are:

  • That the National Freight Strategy engages relevant State Governments to strengthen stevedore rent and other price controls for all future port privatisations, with particular reference to the potential privatisation of the Port of Fremantle
  • An expansion of the regulatory powers of the ACCC to ensure that stevedore charges are fair, appropriately applied, not excessive and not prohibitive to Australia’s economic growth. This may require amendments to the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 to better reflect the unique environment of our international container terminals where competition is restricted and where cargo owners cannot exercise their market power
  • That the Inquiry seeks clarification from the stevedores on their agreements with shipping lines (their commercial clients), to ensure that service prices with their shipping lines have not been reduced at the same time mandatory access fees on port users have increased by more than 900%.

Major critic Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA) has called for more scrutiny to be brought to bear on the port interface in its submission.

“CTAA Alliance companies believe the National Freight and Supply Chain Strategy should take into account the changing commercial structure of the container logistics supply chain and promote a Productivity Commission investigation into who the current ‘winners and losers’ are, and what strategies need to be adopted to ensure Australia’s economic and social best interests are being served,” it says.


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