DEAR Sir,

I write in relation to the ongoing debate regarding the variously labelled waterfront charges levied on road transport operators and hence on the whole supply chain.

There was a time, not so terribly long ago, when these charges did not exist and the services that they purport to provide were an included adjunct to the service that the stevedores provided to their shipowner clients. They were paid for out of the charges that the stevedores charged for handling containers on and off vessels.

Of course in those days there was competition between the stevedores and shipping lines would change from time to time between the stevedores based on efficiency and price. This helped to keep a lid on prices and in some cases even drove them downwards.

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This is no longer the case. Nowadays the stevedoring price can remain constant indefinitely, because when additional revenue is required all that needs to be done is to increase some euphemistically-named landside charge and levy it on a sector with which there is no contractual relationship and which has no power to withdraw from the arrangement.

Waterfront competition has disappeared as a consequence and I guess that it won’t be too long before the charges for receival into a terminal and delivery from a terminal will be levied direct to road transport.

Of course stevedores are entitled to profit just as anyone else. However, their customers are the shipping lines with whom they negotiate a stevedoring tariff and conditions – and not road transport operators and by extension their customers.  

These newly invented additional charges should be rolled back into the stevedoring tariff in each terminal where they will be subject to negotiation between the parties and to the competition that negotiation engenders. It would certainly slow the six monthly massive increases that currently occur.

Regards,
Tom Pinder
Australian Coastal Shipping Pty Ltd, Victoria

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