VICTORIAN ports and freight minister Melissa Horne has criticised stevedore DPWA for increasing access charges for truck and rail operators collecting cargo from the Port of Melbourne.

As reported in Daily Cargo News, DPWA has increased ancilliary charges not only in Melbourne, but also in Sydney and Brisbane.

“This decision is unacceptable – especially at a time when everyone should be pulling together to keep freight moving,” Ms Horne said.

“We’re working hard to boost landside efficiency at the Port of Melbourne to get goods on and off ships quicker to help drive down costs – but stevedores also need to play their part in driving efficiencies to bring down prices.”

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DPWA has said the new charges are in response to industry and government requests to provide support to Australian exporters recovering from the protracted drought and devasting bushfires, as well as coronavirus.

“DPWA is facing these challenging times with a determination to continue to improve our services and efficiencies at our terminals, while supporting Australian farmers and other export businesses and global trade,” said DPWA general manager commercial Sean Barrett.

“Like other industries we are dealing with the impacts of COVID-19, DPWA is doing our part and have retained Australia’s lowest cost national stevedore access charges and with our 35 days’ notice period, we are enabling transport operators to provide extended notice to their customers.”

But the Victorian Transport Association has described stevedore DP World Australia’s increase to ancillary charges as “insensitive”.

VTA CEO Peter Anderson said the charges fall under non-prescribed services within the port supply chain and therefore have no regulation attached to their application.

“Now is not the time for rate increases,” Mr Anderson said.

“It is disappointing that at a time when the transport industry is working together as never before to overcome the catastrophe COVID-19 has unleased on Australians and the economy, DP World has opted to increase its ancillary charge on wharf carriers servicing its terminals at ports around Australia.”

Road Freight New South Wales CEO Simon O’Hara said all their members saw was a net increase to the cost of import containers.

“Dressing up this net increase as assistance to drought affected farmers is disingenuous,” he said.

“Truckies are doing it tough, facing increasingly worse cash-flow constraints,” Mr O’Hara said. “Yet in the middle of what is now a deepening global crisis, DPWA, sees fit to again, to unilaterally raise access infrastructure charges without consultation from its under pressure cash cow, the freight industry.”

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