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Sydney empty container management reaches crisis point

CTAA calls for containerline flexibility as system groans under confluence of issues


Many empty container parks are at capacity, and several closed their doors yesterday to import de-hires of certain equipment types due to operational safety concerns, Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA) reports.

Weather disruptions, berth and container terminal congestion, and stevedore industrial disputation are identified as major contributing factors.

CTAA director Neil Chambers says that “the shipping lines want and need to reposition empty containers out of Port Botany.

“There is a reported shortage of empty containers in Asia to fill export needs.

“However, the shipping lines haven’t been able to evacuate the number of empties necessary to alleviate the severe congestion.”

“One analysis shows an imbalance of over 30,000 TEU since April of imported containers – full and empty – compared to containers exported – full or empty – through Port Botany.

“That’s over 30,000 TEU in the container logistics chain in NSW that otherwise should have been re shipped or re-used, but instead are piling up in empty container parks and transport yards.”

Read about the NSW empty container study findings, here

CTAA sees the situation having significant landside flow-on effects.

“The flow-on impact in the logistics chain is huge, with import empties unable to be de-hired, empties being staged through transport yards and held until they can be dealt with, and a massive increase in the redirection notices for empty containers that adds to transport costs and creates an administrative nightmare for transport operators,” Chambers says.

“Shipping lines need to schedule larger empty stack-runs out of empty container parks to alleviate the congestion as a matter of urgency.

“We understand that there will be some vessel calls dedicated to empty container evacuations out of Port Botany over the coming weeks … these can’t come soon enough.”

CTAA insists delays and congestion bring into question the container detention policies of the major shipping lines.

“Most shipping lines calculate the detention free-time from when the container is discharged from the vessel, which may not correspond to when the container is actually available and accessible from the terminal,” Chambers says.

“Also, with the delays at the end of the import container’s journey from unpack to de-hire, it is likely that many more containers will fall foul of the shipping lines’ container detention policies.

“Importers should be talking to their shipping lines about container detention relief – if you can’t de-hire the container in a timely manner because empty parks are at capacity, how can shipping lines morally charge high container detention fees for late de-hire?”

ATN sought comment from shipowner industry group Shipping Australia Ltd (SAL) on the specifics of CTAA’s concerns.

An SAL spokesperson at this stage is only able to point to the body’s existing position on the importance to trade of the swift turnaround of shipping containers and their freeing up on the date they are contracted to be.


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