CONTAINER Transport Alliance Australia said the Victorian government’s “Big Build” road construction projects underway in greater Melbourne are heightening the challenges for container transport operators already struggling with the huge volumes of trade demand through Port of Melbourne.

In November, the port handled record container throughput. A total of 295,000 TEU went through the port over the month, a 12% increase on November 2019. The port also recorded record empty container movements, totalling 74,966 TEU, 15.7% above the same month in 2019.

In a statement, CTAA said landside congestion is occurring across the container logistics chain, particularly at some empty container parks which are operating at near capacity resulting in some lengthy truck queuing delays.

“Now with major road works occurring in Melbourne’s western suburbs, truck travel times have blown out by more than an hour, leading to difficulties in meeting time slots at container terminals, empty parks and promised customer delivery times,” CTAA said.

“From now through to March there will be 24/7 freeway, lane and ramp closures as part of the West Gate Tunnel Project. Several ramps and bridges are being demolished and rebuilt to make room for the extra lanes in each direction on the M1.”

The statement said the works will deliver four new lanes on the West Gate Freeway between the M80 Ring Road interchange and Williamstown Road, an ungraded southbound bridge at Grieve Parade over the West Gate Freeway, and realigned ramps at the M80 Ring Road interchange.

“While the West Gate Tunnel Project and the government have been encouraging drivers to plan ahead or seek alternative routes, the alternatives are very limited for heavy vehicles, particularly for higher productivity freight vehicles which must adhere to permitted routes,” CTAA said.

“It is pleasing, however, that the container stevedore terminals are recognising the difficulties that container transport operators might be having in meeting stringent time slots.”

CTAA said there is no ideal time for major road works like those currently underway.

“Unfortunately, the consequences are extreme pressure on the container freight logistics chain during an unprecedented surge in trade volumes through the Port of Melbourne,” the statement said.

“Everybody in the container logistics chain, including customers desperate to receive their freight, need to exercise patience and empathy towards their landside logistics providers who are trying their very best in difficult circumstances.”