A DECISION by stevedore DPWA to increase its terminal access charge at Fremantle from $8.22 to $45 per full container from January 2020 has prompted a strong reaction out west.

While TACs (formerly infrastructure surcharges) were also increased at Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, the increase at Fremantle was proportionately the largest.

The DPWA decision occurred in an environment where the stevedore is negotiating a new lease with Fremantle Ports.

Western Roads Federation CEO Cam Dumesny CEO said the fee hikes “cannot be justified”.

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Mr Dumesny said there had been no change in port lease costs and there had been no observed investment by DPWA to support a port productivity infrastructure increase since the introduction of the charge.

“Nor can it be argued that it is being used to build an investment fund when the medium to long term future of the port is uncertain,” he said.

“And no one invests in uncertainty.”

Mr Dumesny said the impost of the charge on road transport inevitably would mean some small to medium transport operators being forced to absorb the charge, being unable to pass it on to clients.

Fremantle Ports chief executive Chris Leatt-Hayter said infrastructure charges had been “a key matter” in negotiations for a new lease.

Mr Leatt-Hayter said they sought clarity about infrastructure charges following fee hikes at eastern seaboard ports.

“DP World’s action is disappointing, given the substantial effort both parties have made to reach agreement on new lease arrangements over the past months,” he said.

“It also confirms Fremantle Ports’ concerns about the level of future infrastructure charges that may eventuate if no agreed approach is in place under the new lease.”

In a statement to customers, DPWA general manager commercial Sean Barrett said the stevedore had invested at its Fremantle Terminal with more than $16m in critical infrastructure.

“We need to further rebalance our revenue recovery to adequately account for landside services and costs,” Mr Barrett said. Terminal access charges / Infrastructure charges have been raised consistently by container stevedores around Australia during the past three years.

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