SHIPPING lines should scrap “exorbitant surcharges and container detention penalties” that are compounding the misery of recession for Australian businesses, it has been argued.

In a joint statement, Freight and Trade Alliance/ Australian Peak Shippers and Container Transport Alliance Australia said shipping line facilities used to store empty sea freight containers within Port Botany were at capacity, meaning transport operators were incurring significantly higher costs in time and fuel moving them further afield.

FTA director and APSA secretariat Paul Zalai said it was time for a blanket waiver of container detention penalties in Port Botany until shipping lines could ease congestion.

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“It is time for international shipping lines to stand up and be a part of the solution and not use this predicament as a means of recovering operating costs to sustain record profits,” Mr Zalai said.

“These shipping line-imposed fees are clearly being used to cover the consequences of poor planning, operational inefficiency and strategic inertia in the knowledge that ‘the customer will pay’.”

CTAA director Neil Chambers said Transport for NSW was working with industry to review what additional land or facilities might be available for empty container park use.

“Whist this is a positive initiative, it’s hard to see how such services could be quickly deployed,” Mr Chambers said.

“In the interim, shipping lines should bear some of the weight, both financial and operational, that has been imposed on transport companies, importers and exporters in these exceptional times.”

In a statement posted online, Shipping Australia said it was “a simple fact” that industrial action had induced a backlog of congestion at Port Botany and, to a lesser extent, other capital city ports.

“Given that there are at least 15 different ocean container shipping services into/out of Australia, shippers have a choice of providers and can choose what offerings to accept,” SAL stated. “Unfortunately there are some who, when faced with a reality they don’t like, resort to whipping up outraged howls of anguish and by throwing around unsubstantiated allegations.”

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