LANDSIDE operators carrying freight at the Port of Melbourne may enjoy greater transparency, fairness and certainty regarding infrastructure charges and terminal access fees.

This follows the establishment of a Voluntary Port of Melbourne Performance Model and a Draft Protocol governing how stevedores levy fees and charges

In a letter to industry groups, ports and freight minister Melissa Horne said the model would establish clearer protocols regarding:

  • notification of price increases and new landside charges;
  • process by which government and industry are advised of these increases;
  • provision of information justifying new or higher prices; and
  • timing of price changes.

The draft protocol stipulates how operators could be notified about landside pricing and charges, and makes clear:

  • Stevedore terminal access charges will only be changed once per annum.
  • Stevedores must issue a notice of intention to the Secretary, Department of Transport and Industry 90 days prior to the proposed date of increase of an existing charge or introduction of a new charge.
  • The notice of intention to change prices or introduce a new charge to the Department of Transport must be accompanied by detailed reasons for the increase or introduction of a new charge, including all supporting information or data.
  • The notice of intention to change prices or introduce a new charge to Industry must outline in sufficient detail the rationale for the price increase or introduction of a new charge.
  • Stevedores will receive feedback from Department of Transport and Industry on the proposed increase or introduction of a new charge.
  • Stevedores must issue a final notice of changed prices 60 days prior to the date of the proposed increase.

VTA chief executive Peter Anderson said the protocol would provide transparency, fairness and due process and would give operators greater time and flexibility.

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“Most importantly, it will require stevedores to provide a rationale for increases to fees and charges, and regulate the frequency that prices can be adjusted,” he said.

Mr Anderson said the VTA had long been a strong and vocal advocate for the introduction of tighter regulatory controls.

“We were an active participant in the recent Port Pricing and Access Review led by Deloitte on behalf of the Victorian Government,” he said.

Container Transport Alliance Australia director Neil Chambers said Minister Horne had confirmed the Review’s findings did not identify a compelling reason to regulate the infrastructure surcharge/infrastructure access charges or landside access charges.

“This is disappointing, but understandable given that the Review’s findings mirror analyses from the ACCC Container Stevedore Monitoring Reports that the stevedores are not ‘price gouging’, but are focusing more attention on revenue generation from the landside to make up for the reduced revenue from shipping lines due to fierce price competition in stevedoring services,” Mr Chambers said.

“Unfortunately, this still leaves container transport operators (road & rail) as the ‘bankers’ for the stevedores, having to pay the high stevedore landside access fees on relatively short payment terms.”

Industry bodies are to be providing feedback on the draft protocol for notification of landside operator price increases aimed at helping the start of a 12-month trial of the VPPM from January next year.”

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