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Patrick in access charging adjustment and hike

Opponents say moves make a bad situation worse for haulage


Patrick Terminal’s approach to container access charging on haulage firms, and therefore Australian traders, has been refined following a review.

Along with a change in terminology, the stevedore now delineates between import and export containers, charging more for access to the former.

It has taken to calling the “infrastructure surcharge” a “Landside” charge and says the moves follow “government and key stakeholder feedback”.

Patrick has also raised Landside and Terminal Ancillary Tariffs.

“The Landside charge will be applied to both road and rail transport operators for all full container movements, both import and export, made at the Terminals,” Patrick CEO Michael Jovicic says.

“Road operators will be invoiced electronically via 1-Stop while rail operators will have the charge separately itemised on their rail invoice.”

While casting the new approach as recognising “the significant challenges currently being faced by our exporters from drought and bushfires”, the stevedore offers a stern reminder to those offering resistance to the unilateral hikes.

“We remind customers that ongoing access to the Terminals is conditional upon prompt payment in accordance with Patrick’s standard terms and conditions,” Jovicic says.

“We regret this change to our cost structure but without sacrificing infrastructure investment and further performance improvements, we have been left with no alternative in the current economic challenging environment.”

Both alliances in the resistance have made pointed remarks both on the impact of the development in issue and the political challenge it represents.

The Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA), Australian Peak Shippers Association (APSA) and Container Transport Alliance of Australia (CTAA) alliance notes the implied threat.

“As with previous stevedore fee increases, transport operators face a significant and rising burden in having to carry the cost of paying the stevedore fees (or have their terminal access denied) well ahead of collecting the amounts from import & export customers.  In addition, there is added administration in reconciling fees against jobs,” CTAA says in an advisory to members.

“Therefore, it is realistic for transport operators to negotiate with their customers directly on administration ‘mark ups’ of the fees to take account of these burdens. 

“Indeed, now that Patrick is differentiating the fees between full imports and full exports, the accounting reconciliation will be even more complex.”

Read how the stevedore charges situation was a year ago, here

The alliance of Road Freight NSW (RFNSW), the Australian Trucking Association (ATA), Western Roads Federation and the Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia (CBFCA) was blunt, describing the move as “cynical”.

“Patrick has blatantly ignored a directive from the NSW government to stop its ongoing excessive port infrastructure surcharges by imposing yet another round of fees on transport operators – by imposing a new levy known as a ‘Terminal Access Charge’,” the RFNSW ATA WRF CBFCA alliance says.

“The stevedore also failed to provide industry with 60 days’ notice for its significant increases for a range of terminal charges, which will now take effect from 9 March.”

It enumerates the increases for NSW this way:

  • Electronic Vehicle Booking Fees from $13.00 to $20.00 – up 54 per cent
  • Infrastructure Levy of $77.50 to a new Landside Terminal Charge of $114.50 for import containers – up 47.75 per cent
  • Infrastructure Levy of $77.50 to a new Landside Terminal Charge of $82.50 for export containers – up 6.45 per cent.

It notes prices for storage, hazardous and reefer containers also rise.

“The increases are staggering, with Patrick’s VBS normal slot booking fee rising by almost 54%, including at Cargolink facilities for the return of empty container de-hires at the wharf, while performance penalties will rise between 7% to 9%,” it says in a statement.

“Yet again, it’s unreasonable and unfair, given that transport operators aren’t experiencing increases in terminal performance to offset higher fees through greater vehicle productivity (turnaround times and load utilisations).

“In fact, at some Patrick terminals, landside receival and delivery operational performance has deteriorated.”

Both alliances are making calls for urgent state control of such charges.

“State Governments need to introduce legislation to resolve this situation asap. Port charges need to be regulated,” CBFCA commercial manager Scott Carson says.

“The NSW PBLIS model introduced as part of the IPART review should be extended in NSW as part of the solution to these issues and other state governments need to move to such a model, that has prior input from industry.

“The privatisation arrangements on Australia’s waterfront have resulted in most industry stakeholders having been severely commercially disadvantaged, with this situation being the outcome of these arrangements.

“It has to end, the negative effects on Australia’s economy are growing by the month.”

CTAA promises the issue will be a hot one for the coming year.

Coinciding with the infrastructure (terminal access) charge increases is notice from Patrick Terminals of yet further rises in their Vehicle Booking System (VBS) fees and associated penalities such as truck No Show fees and Wrong Time Zone fees.

“From 9 March 2020, Patrick’s VBS normal slot booking fee will rise by close to 54% (including at Cargolink facilities for the return of empty container de-hires at the wharf), while performance penalities will rise between 7% to 9%.

“Alas, transport operators aren’t experiencing a 50% increase in terminal / transport interface performance to offset higher fees through greater vehicle productivity (turn around times and load utilisations).  In fact, unfortunately at some Patrick Terminals in recent times, landside receival & delivery (R&D) operational performance has deteriorated.

“The recent analysis of port pricing and access conducted by Deloitte Access Economics for the Victorian Government has mirrored the advice of CTAA that ‘fairer’ and more balanced access agreements are required between landside transport operators and container stevedores, including to define operational performance measures applicable to all parties.

“On behalf of CTAA alliance companies, CTAA will be pursuing this objective as a priority in 2020 across Australia. 

“We trust that governments will support these actions to ensure that we continue to strive for operational efficiencies and productivity in the transport / stevedore interface at reasonable cost.”

The ball is again in the politicians’ court.


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