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TfNSW sheds light on work of Empty Container Working Group

Body formed to examine efficiencies in the face of port logistics congestion crisis


Transport for NSW (TfNSW) gives an update on Empty Container Working Group (ECWG), after its establishment last year in the face of unprecedented container logistics congestion in Sydney.

Haulage and trade services organisations welcomed the group’s formation, which followed the NSW Empty Container Supply Chain Study.

Port Botany operator NSW Ports’ statistics show some minor if promising signs of an easing of the near-gridlock in the container logistics system, though haulage interests maintain it is still in crisis due to imports outstripping exports over the past six months by 12,000 twenty-foot equivalent units (TEU).

“We are seeing a return to productive and efficiency operations at Port Botany and this includes the export of empty containers,” a TfNSW spokesperson tells ATN.

“December and January represented record months in terms of both total volumes of containers moved in and out of the port as well as the exports of empty containers.

“In December, 83,140 empty containers were exported and January 83,078 empties were exported. This compares to 50,924 and 53,604 in February and March of 2020 respectively.

“The load discharge ratio, that is the proportion of exported containers compared to imports, was 1.07 in February 2021 meaning we exported more containers than we imported.

“This is encouraging and reflects both the impact on operations at the port in 2020 as well as the efforts and commitment of all in the supply chain to address the empty container supply chain issue.”

Read how haulage interests view recent Sydney container developments, here

According to TfNSW, the ECWG was established to identify industry-led, voluntary solutions to address the challenges of managing empty containers near Port Botany and it “has made steady progress identifying initiatives to address inefficiencies in the empty container supply chain”.

These are identified as:

  • Developing a list of key performance measures to be monitored and reported on a regular basis
  • Establishing internal data sharing and reporting protocols with data owners to provide greater visibility of performance and key issues across the empty container supply chain.
  • Providing support for the amendment of the State Environmental Planning Policy (Three Ports) 2013 to temporarily allow higher stacking heights near Port Botany of up to seven containers
  • Promoting development of market-led proposals for new empty container parks (ECPs).

The ECWG is said to be further defining problem areas and agreeing a number of voluntary initiatives.

These include:

  • Increasing the use of electronic document orders (EDOs)
  • Increasing the use of direct returns to stevedores
  • Implementing multiple dehire locations and improving system interoperability
  • Increasing the utilisation of capacity across the operating hours of ECPs and use of after-hours dehires/collections
  • Increasing adherence to vehicle booking slots at ECPs.


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