SHIPPING line COSCO has announced a suspension of southbound bookings to Australia for two weeks, starting 5 October.

This is for the AAA and ASAL services.

The company has cited industrial relations in Australia as the reason for its decision.

“The ongoing industrial action at Australian Ports & Terminals has created significant disruption to COSCO’s South East Asia service network,” the company said in a note to customers.

“We now have vessels on our AAA1 / AAA2 / ASAL services that have been delayed around the Australian coast for two to three weeks and this is likely to worsen.

“The impact we now face is October southbound voyages across AAA1 / AAA2 / ASAL will be missed or delayed by up to three weeks.”

According to the company, it was imperative that they “stop all southbound booking acceptance ex SEA region either loading or connecting onto the for the following vessels”.

“This decision will be until further notice, until we have a clearer picture on schedule recovery,” the company stated.

“We deeply regret the inconvenience, however trust customers will understand we must stop booking acceptance in these weeks to avoid serious rollover consequences.”

International Forwarders and Customs Brokers Association of Australia regional manager, Zoran Kostadinoski, said the decision of some shipping lines, including COSCO, to stop southbound booking acceptance would have a significant impact on international trade.

“Demand is already greater than supply due to the pandemic and disruption to shipping services will have a commercial and financial impact on the trading community,” Mr Kostadinoski said.

“On top of the current industrial actions, ports and empty container park congestions, BMSB risk season and leading into the peak shipping season,  the disruption to shipping services is the last thing shippers and freight forwarders need.”

He said shippers and freight forwarders relied on efficient global supply chains. “IFCBAA encourages the shipping consortiums to ensure enough capacity is provided for the southbound trade lane as Australia is an island nation that heavily relies on trade,” he said.

Freight and Trade Alliance head of business operations John Park said these decisions by COSCO and OOCL added further pain to Australian importers struggling to get space, not to mention paying freight rate increases and surcharges, and/or specific equipment in load ports due to the tens of thousands of empty containers sitting in Sydney.

“Now they are faced with delays in getting the cargo they can pack onto vessels,” Mr Park said.

He said FTA / APSA would be lodging a supplementary submission to its original submission to the ACCC regarding a Proposed Class Exemption for Ocean Liner Shipping to support the need for legislative reform.