AUSTRALIANS should expect to pay more for imported goods this Christmas due to shipping container backlogs at major ports, says Andrew Coldrey, vice president of third-party logistics provider C.H. Robinson.

Mr Coldrey said exports of goods from Australia had reduced due to COVID-19 restrictions and too few containers were heading offshore, while empty containers used for two-way trade are lying idle at empty container parks.

“At the same time, there has been a decrease in Australian exports due to COVID-19 staff restrictions, which combined with the congestion at our ports, have caused chaos for transport operators, with costs set to trickle down the supply chain to Australian consumers,” Mr Coldrey said.

He said importing from Asia was at risk due to the inability to export full and empty containers back to Asia, with research from NSW Ports showing an imbalance of 30,000TEU between full and empty imports and full and empty exports between April-June 2020.

Severe congestion at Port of Botany has been blamed on weather, industrial disputes and overcrowding at ECP, placing a heavy strain on the port and causing ships to redirect to Melbourne.

These issues have placed greater pressure on Melbourne’s ECPs.

“This issue has been slowly mounting and has reached a stage where Australian consumers are most likely going to suffer at the checkout,” Mr Coldrey said.

“At the beginning of the year, planning by freight forwarders couldn’t have accounted for the differing consequences of a world pandemic,” he said.

Mr Coldrey said spare shipping allocation was now being sold at a premium, adding additional costs throughout the supply chain. “With the busiest quarter almost upon us, we must address the bottlenecks at key Australian ports,” he said.