VICTORIA International Container Terminal has announced an increase to their infrastructure charge per full container, effective from 1 July onwards. 

The infrastructure charge applies to full import and export containers, and will be increased from $177.48 to $194.85 per container. 

VICT cited considerable increases in costs to their business as reason for the adjustment, adding that landside charges recover part of the costs related to maintenance and operation of terminal’s landside, property costs, and capital investment to terminal infrastructure. 

The terminal stated in the announcement that the adjustment was “a crucial step” to maintain and enhance their efficiency, noting that VICT had continued to maintain a sub 37-minute gate to gate truck turnover time over the previous twelve months, despite an increase in activity within the terminal. 

The ACCC’s Container Stevedoring Monitoring Report 2022-23 noted that VICT was unable to increase its share of the Melbourne market in recent years, observing that the terminal’s stevedoring operated at near capacity that year. However, that has changed since berth extension was completed earlier this year and extra equipment deployed.

The report noted that in the stevedoring industry generally, there was a trend of an increased percentage of revenue being earned from the landside (administered on transport operators) versus quayside (administered against the stevedore’s commercial client in the shipping line).

Paul Zalai, director and co-founder of Freight & Trade Alliance remarked: “Rather than negotiating increased fees with their contracted client being foreign-owned shipping lines, it is a whole lot easier for VICT and other stevedores to hold road and rail transport operators to ransom and force them to pay increased fees for access to the terminals.”

Mr Zalai believes an amended negotiating process is necessary between terminal, shipper, and shipping line respectively. 

“Our consistent position over the last decade has been those stevedores, like all other sectors of commerce, should recover all operating costs from their commercial customers. If the shipping lines cannot absorb stevedore fees, then they should pass this on in negotiations with exporters, importers and freight forwarders – that’s how commerce should work, right?” he said. 

Mr Zalai believes a level of well-considered regulation is necessary in order to safeguard the commercial viability of exporters and control spiralling costs of imports. 

In particular he highlighted the World Bank ‘trading across border’ ranking that saw Australia plunge in the decade to 2020 from 25th in the world to 106th: “Can you imagine if our education, health or a national sporting team dropped 80 places in world rankings – there would be a public outcry” he said.