The National Road Transport Association (NatRoad) has welcomed a long-awaited Productivity Commission (PC) report calling for broad reforms to Australia’s waterfront.
The proble titled Lifting productivity at Australia’s container ports: between water, wharf and warehouse said inefficiencies at the country’s big container ports directly cost the economy about $600 million a year.
The report found “considerable variation” in Australia’s container terminals that have large impacts on businesses and consumers. Sustained disruptions to imports or exports magnify these costs across the economy.
NatRoad CEO Warren Clark said the report reflects his organisation’s view that addressing bottlenecks and inefficiencies at container ports is in the national interest.
“The point is well made that there’s a lot to be gained by making some practical and incremental operational changes,” Clark said.
“For example, truck operators have no choice about which terminal they use when picking up or dropping off a container, so must pay whatever price a terminal operator sets.
“Soaring increases in terminal access charges have flowed through to cargo owners [and consumers].
“The PC says voluntary protocols to address terminal operators’ abuse of market power should be strengthened and NatRoad endorses a proposal to regulate landside port charges by way of a federal industry code.”
Clark said NatRoad members persistently complain that they’re paying fees to shipping lines for the late return of containers even where the delay is because empty container parks are full.
“Exemptions for shipping contracts mean that these fees fall outside the scope of Australian consumer law and that needs to be fixed as soon as possible,” Clark said.
Clark said NatRoad disagrees with the PC assertion that all is well with access regimens around Australian ports.
“The Commission notes that urban encroachment affects all major Australian container ports except Brisbane, and that this can create conflict with some port users,” Clark said.
“While it says existing planning tools are adequate to balance competing community demands, the on-the-ground experience of heavy vehicle operators does not bear this out.”