A VOLATILE industrial relations situation is likely to take a toll on the movement of goods, Platinum Freight Management chief executive Peter McRae has warned.
Mr McRae noted several recent cases of strikes at Port Botany as well as potential flashpoints involving staff with the Australian Border Force and the Department of Agriculture and Water Resources.
“There is a significant risk to the free flow of goods through the ports from three fronts at this – the busiest time of year,” Mr McRae said.
Mr McRae said historical data proved December to be a strike period for port workers it was the time when business had most to lose.
He said it was “therefore a critical time for ports, ABF and DAWR to renegotiate terms for the increase of cargo activity entering and exiting ports”.
He noted increasing cargo volumes “adding fuel to the fire” with 213,103 TEU passing through Port Botany in December 2016, up 23,640 from December 2015.
Meanwhile Commonwealth government moves to change the tax free threshold had led to unprecedented scrutiny of the ABF and DAWR processes and systems.
“Departments are under extreme strain due to these pressures. It provides the perfect pressure situation that could give rise to additional strikes this year,” Mr McRae said.
“If the ABF and DAWR were to join port workers in Christmas strikes, the passage of cargo would be stopped dead and the fallout for Australian business would be enormous.”
While striking was an unknown variable, plenty of importers and exporters “still fall into the trap”, according to Mr McRae.
The best course, he said, was to book shipments early.
“Negotiate shipping times with suppliers now in order to ensure stock is landed before strike action inevitably heats up. The smart importer should aim to have stock in transit to warehouse by the end of November,” Mr McRae said.
“The cost of strike action goes beyond the risk of getting stock on shelves late and therefore missing critical sales. While stock sits in containers on ships pending entry to port or sitting on the wharf awaiting processing, container rental fees from the shipping companies begin and continue to rack up.”
He said it paid to be organised.
“Be prepared and plan your shipments with care. Where possible, ship early, pre-clear goods and allocate additional budget in case your goods do get caught up in a Christmas bottleneck.”