STEVEDORE Hutchison Container Terminals has defended its performance record following claims it has been caught short during the peak season freight surge.

Container Transport Alliance Australia director Neil Chambers issued a release talking of an “appalling landside service performance at Hutchison’s Brisbane Container Terminal”.

“The Hutchison BCT is incapable of dealing with its current container volumes and has been woefully caught short with the surge in container volumes during peak season,” Mr Chambers said.

“This has led to serious heavy vehicle safety and fatigue management concerns with excessive truck queuing on Curlew Street and Port Drive waiting for entry into BCT.”

Mr Chambers said truck turnaround times at BCT had in the last few days blown out to between five to nine hours.

He also said Hutchison had also closed its empty container return pool “indefinitely” due to terminal congestion, with empty import containers “having to be redirected to other empty de-hire facilities”.

“This lack of operational performance by Hutchison BCT is totally unacceptable to the container transport industry in Brisbane, and is costing transport companies considerably more in operational and administration costs,” he said.

A Hutchison spokesperson sad they were “currently experiencing an unprecedented situation with vessels bunching up and arriving out of window due to delays at other upstream ports”.

“This has caused considerable congestion in the Port of Brisbane terminal as exports await loading and, with the upsurge in empty containers, run into the terminal awaiting evacuation. Usually when all vessels are in window, HPA has less issues in the yard.

“We are trying to assist lines with their urgent need to move out high volumes of empties, which along with a big surge in the import market is adding to the congestion,” the spokesperson said.

“HPA is also trying to alleviate the issues on the landside in Brisbane by encouraging more transport companies to extend their services outside of the current fixed daytime hours between 9am and 5pm, and to take up slots on the night shifts.

“It remains a limiting restriction in Brisbane that container transport operators are not as flexible as their counterparts in Sydney in Melbourne, who are operating 24 hours, which makes for a smoother operation to ease congestion.”

The spokesperson said if HPA could achieve more flexibility in Brisbane there would be a more even spread of slot utilisation across the day and this will ease delays to the landside and ease pressure on the transport sector.

“This is the immediate fix if HPA can get cooperation all around,” the spokesperson said.

Mr Chambers said BCT had in July increased the infrastructure charge on transport companies from $33.10 per container to $94.78 per laden container.

“That’s an increase of 286%, netting Hutchison hundreds of thousands of extra dollars per annum, supposedly to offset the rising costs of landside operations and to improve terminal productivity,” he said.

“It’s about time that Hutchison recognised this fact and invested appropriately in terminal improvements, longer hours of operation, additional arrival slots and adequate truck servicing performance.”

Mr Chambers said if service standards failed to improve, container transport operators in Brisbane would have no choice but to lobby for mandatory standards.

He said CTAA had met with the Port of Brisbane and would be taking these issues to Queensland transport minister Mark Bailey also.

He said they would be raising these issues directly with Queensland transport minister Mark Bailey.