Port giant hikes up fees and pays no tax in Australia on profits

DP World Australia (DPWA) has issued Notices of Intention to increase landside fees and charges at each of its four container terminals in Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane and Fremantle on January 1, 2024, warns Australia’s peak container transport body.

In some instances, the fee increases are massive, including a 52.52 per cent increase in the Terminal Access Charge (TAC) for full export containers in Melbourne, a 38.80 per cent increase in Sydney, and a 37.50 per cent jump in Brisbane, said Neil Chambers, director of Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA).

TACs for full import containers are set to rise by 26.18 per cent in Brisbane, 25.49 per cent in Sydney, and 21.22 per cent in Melbourne.

“By contrast, in Fremantle where there is still WA government oversight and intervention on stevedore terminal access fee increases, TACs on full imports and full exports are only set to rise by 5 per cent,” Chambers said.

“That shows that it’s a ‘free-for-all’ on the east coast, with little in the way of landside fee pricing constraints.”

Chambers added that Vehicle Booking System slot fees will also increase by a whopping 49.74 per cent in Fremantle (as this fee is not controlled through the terminal lease clauses with Fremantle Ports) and 35.65 per cent in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

“What is the justification for these levels of increase?

“The controversial Energy Charge (per export and import container via road or rail) implemented by DPWA last year is slated to increase by 13.64 per cent in Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane, and by 18.40 per cent in Fremantle. Again, where is the justification and transparency?”

According to the Notices of Intention, DPWA said it’s forecasting more than $600m in capital expenditure across 2023-2026 in its four terminals to invest in equipment and civil expansion works to cater for greater landside demand.

The notices also mention other capital expenditure on maintenance and expansionary pavements work at all terminals, and on IT infrastructure and system upgrades as justifications for the fee hikes.

Chambers said all concerned stakeholders in the container logistics chain in Australia should provide their feedback to DPWA via by Friday, November 24 as they are obliged to respond when issuing their final 30-day notices.

News of the massive fee hikes comes amid a revelation that DP World, one of Australia’s two largest port operators, has paid no tax in Australia despite generating revenue of more than $4.5 billion over eight years.

According to a report by the Centre for International Corporate Tax Accountability and Research, DP World’s top Australian subsidiary may have “artificially reduced profits” to achieve the result.

The report said DP World appears to be “highly profitable”, citing an average margin on earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation of 25 per cent in the last eight years.

In a statement in reponse to the tax claims, DP World said that it fulfils its tax obligations by “paying in accordance with Australia’s tax regulations”.

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