A RULING by the Australian Competition Tribunal regarding the price that should be applied to coal ships accessing Port of Newcastle is being appealed by miner Glencore and the ACCC.

The separate but overlapping appeals have been lodged in the Federal Courts of Melbourne and Sydney.

The Australian Competition Tribunal had ruled prices be at a level that provides “an incentive to a service provider to efficiently (and in a timely fashion) invest in maintaining and improving infrastructure necessary to provide facilities at the port”. 

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In its ruling, the ACT had noted “prices that are too low can lead to non-investment or delayed investment, or the non-provision of some infrastructure services”.

In a statement, ACCC chair Rod Sims said  “a significant part” of the dispute was whether costs Port of Newcastle Operations was allowed to recover should include the costs for dredging the shipping channel that were “historically funded by various users of the port”.

ACCC chairman Rod Sims. Photo: ACCC

Mr Sims said the ACCC excluded these user funded amounts in its original arbitration and determined an access charge of $0.61 per gross tonne as at 1 January 2018, while the Tribunal included these amounts and determined an access charge $1.01 per gross tonne.

The Tribunal’s decision allows PNO to recover the user funded amounts in its access charge.  

“Our appeal will focus on what we will argue are errors in the way the Tribunal has approached the principles of user funding, which could have implications for other regulatory matters,” Mr Sims said.

Port of Newcastle chief executive Craig Carmody said it was disappointing to see further uncertainty.

Craig Carmody, Port of Newcastle CEO. Image: Port of Newcastle

“Port pricing should remain subject to an appropriate and efficient commercial relationship between the port and its customers,” Mr Carmody said.

“The endless legal battles erode confidence in investing in infrastructure, be it at the mine or at the port, in one of Australia’s most important export industries,” he said.

“We will continue to sit down with our customers to discuss our services and pricing, respecting the need for all parties to return to a normal commercial relationship.”

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