QUBE Holdings has taken legal action against the Port of Newcastle over who should own and operate quay-side cranes at one of the two dry bulk berths.

Documents from Qube, seen by Daily Cargo News, were recently filed in the Federal Court in Sydney.

Qube argues the port operator is using new quayside equipment to move into stevedoring, in what it argues is a misuse of market power.

Qube also argues PoN management is exercising monopoly power to ensure existing terminal users have no choice but to use the new service.

According to Qube’s statement of claim, traditionally the PoN rented out access to two fixed gantry cranes and other receiving equipment at the berth most likely to be used by any of the three competitors (the other operators are Newcastle Stevedores and LINX Cargo Care Group).

But in a statement, Port of Newcastle said the introduction of modern ship unloaders and associated infrastructure was “a good news story for customers”.

PON says it is investing $35m to upgrade this infrastructure.

“This equipment requires a highly-trained workforce to ensure that it maintains the highest standards in safety and environmental management and achieves a superior commercial outcome for our customers,” a PON spokesman said.

“All parties recognise that it must be operated safely and efficiently – there is widespread support for these priorities and the port will not apologise for putting the safety of port users first.”

The spokesman said the other two stevedores at Newcastle had accepted PON’s proposal and were working collaboratively to develop the model further.

“It is disappointing that Qube has decided to use bullying tactics and pursue legal action to gain a more commercially advantageous outcome for itself, at the expense of other stevedores,” the spokesman said.