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Port Botany logistics still in crisis despite slight easing

CTAA sees continuing reports of record landside container redirections


Sydney’s empty container congestion continues with imports measured by twenty foot-equivalent units (TEU) continuing to outpace exports, according to Port Botany operator NSW Ports’ statistics.

In the last six months, total imports have exceeded total exports by about 12,000 TEU.

The silver lining is that there has been a significant increase in the repatriation of empties by containership lines from below 60,000 TEU a month last July to around 80,000 in the five months before March.

Haulage body Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA) notes that December and February see a positive load/discharge ratio – 1.02 and 1.07 respectively – meaning that more containers were exported through Port Botany than imported in those months.

“In February, full imports were up by almost 30 per cent on the same time last year (116,569 TEU), and up more than 6 per cent year to date (YTD),” it notes in an advisory.

“Thankfully though, empty exports were up 51 per cent on the same time last year (at 78,423 TEU), making up for a lacklustre full export performance, down 1.39 per cent compared to February 2020, and down 11 per cent YTD.”

CTAA says it is getting daily reports of record level of empty container redirections to alternative de-hire facilities, and numerous indications to ‘contact the shipping line’ for information on where to return certain equipment types.

“A small glimmer of hope came last week with major Empty Container Park (ECP) provider in Sydney, ACFS Port Logistics, announcing that large empty ‘repos’ had freed up some capacity – welcome news and indicating that empty evacuations will continue to be high in March,” CTAA says.

“The level of redirections and scarcity of empty container capacity in Sydney is not sustainable. Even though the extraordinary import surge may dissipate eventually, we are still faced with strong year or year containerised trade growth.

“This imbalance of capacity should be (and is) occupying the minds of government, port operator and industry alike.”

At the same time as the landside system is struggling to process the demands of the lines, it is being hit financially by them through container detention fee enforcement, CTAA charges.

“Unfortunately, disputes between shipping lines, importers, forwarders and transport operators continue about empty container detention invoices, despite the high level of redirections, and real difficulties in obtaining timely slots to de-hire at nominated locations,” it says.

“The hand-to-mouth ability to obtain slots for container de-hire at Port Botany ECPs, coupled with the high level of redirections, leads to time delays for transport operators.

“Shipping lines are demanding ‘proof’ that de-hire capacity was unavailable to importers and transport operators if container detention claims are disputed.

“This has included transport staff keeping ‘screenshots’ of ECP slot booking unavailability.

“This is a huge and unsustainable burden on logistics providers.

“The shorter weeks this week and next with Easter ECP closures will only exacerbate the problem.”

Read about the questioning of NSW Ports’  Port Botany congestion plan, here

Meanwhile, into this chaotic scene stevedore DP World Australia’s logistics arm, DPWAL, is adding the possibility of still more costs into the Port Botany system with a new $24.82 Peak Traffic Management Surcharge for its two empty container parks there from April 19.

It says it has “identified peak trucking activities around our facilities that are contributing to long trucking queues”.

“The queues are a hazard to all other traffic users near our facilities and causing increases to our truck turnaround times”, it adds in an echo of NSW Ports recent comments around its hard line on Port Botany congestion.

Now it is also be will be “increasing available slot capacity between 0500 and 1600, Monday to Friday (corresponding with the Surcharge application) and digitising truck gate entry (paperless entry)”.

“The number of available slots during the peak periods will increase by 40 per cent. This will provide additional opportunities for Transport operators to book slots and avoid arriving at our sites without a booking and will help reduce delays / congestion,” DPWAL explains

“We are digitising the gate process. Through the installation of cameras and a traffic light system, drivers will no longer need to leave their cabs to manually book in at our gate office. This is safer for them and our staff with reduced face to face interactions. We will match the online transport booking information with number plate recognition technology, to expedite the entry and exit process. This will initially benefit 70 per cent of our customers using EDIs and our ambition is for all customers to benefit by utilising this technology.

“The surcharge will apply between 05:00 and 16:00 weekdays. Either side of this time frame no surcharge will be applicable

“Initial application of surcharge will be on the top of the VBS fee. DPWAL is working with Container Chain to show it as a separate tariff item and expect to be able to charge separately in later half of 2021.

“The new system is expected to go live around Week 12 and will enable the industry to see the benefits prior to the Surcharge coming into effect in Week 15.”


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