Monday 19th Feb, 2018

Government action urged following infrastructure fee hikes

Photo: Ingram Publishing
Photo: Ingram Publishing

AN INFRASTRUCTURE fee hike by stevedore Patrick has prompted calls for government agencies to take action.

The Container Transport Alliance Australia says it has written to federal and state ministers following the Patrick announcement, while Freight and Trade Alliance director Paul Zalai has pledged to “seek clarity” on the issue from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission.

“The real reason for these increases is the stevedore ‘rates war’, and the ability of the stevedores in an unregulated market to shift their cost recovery to the landside stakeholders,” CTAA director Neil Chambers said.

“The foreign shipping lines are laughing all the way to the bank because there has been no corresponding reduction in the charges they levy on shippers for terminal handling.

“Foreign-owned shipping lines are financially benefiting from lower stevedoring rates charged by the stevedores, while maintaining high terminal handling charges, at the expense of Australia’s containerised supply chain competitiveness.”

Mr Chambers said the CTAA had written to Commonwealth and state ministers and calling on them to investigate the relationship between:

  • Stevedores and terminal rates to shipping lines;
  • Terminal handling charges applied by shipping lines to shippers; and
  • The implementation and quantum of the infrastructure surcharges levied by stevedores on transport operators.

“Meanwhile, CTAA believes that shippers need to take up the commercial fight to the shipping lines and seek reductions in THCs to account for the cost shifting that is occurring,” Mr Chambers said.

FTA director the latest fee increase occurred after the 2017 introduction of the Infrastructure surcharge and a second increase by DPWA earlier this year.

“It comes as no surprise that Patrick have again replicated the approach of their main competitor,” Mr Zalai said.

“While there is no suggestion of collusion between the stevedores, it appears to be another case of “follow the leader” and an easy way to attract a significant quantum of income without affecting their contracted shipping line customers.

“What a wonderful world to live in to be able to turn on the money tap whenever required.”

Mr Zalai confirmed an upcoming meeting with ACCC chair, Rod Sims, with a view to getting clarity on protecting the sector from “a spate of uncontrolled surcharges and unregulated price increases”.

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