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NSW peak body welcomes port empty container scheme

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Peak body Road Freight NSW (RFNSW) welcomes a new scheme which incentivises shipping lines to better manage and evacuate empty containers at Port Botany.

RFNSW says it will assist in improving the balance of imports and exports and reduce the chronic congestion at empty container parks (ECP).

But the association also warns that any wharfage charges imposed on shippers under the Port Botany Empty Container Incentive Scheme (ECIS) for unsatisfactory Load/Discharge (L/D) container ratios, must not be passed on to landside operators and into the supply chain.

From July 1, as part of the ECIS, NSW Ports will implement a CPI-based increase in all port charges, other than charges on empty containers for export, with wharfage rebates for optimal L/D ratios (close to, or exceeding, 1.0). The charges will be calculated on a quarterly basis.

RFNSW chief executive officer Simon O’Hara said the scheme may provide a solution to the ECP crisis by incentivising shippers to evacuate empty containers, thereby reducing congestion through the port supply chain.

“Over the past 18 months, our members have faced enormous problems trying to collect and de-hire empty containers, as a result of constant empty redirections and the shortage of available of slots to return empties at ECPs. It’s been a merry-go-round of redirections and closed returns,” O’Hara said.

“On top of that, truck operators have been unfairly penalised by ECPs for apparently turning up early or late, even if they were ranked outside. It’s not their fault that ECPs haven’t been providing adequate numbers of empty slots to service de-hires, but they’re still being punished financially for it.

“RFNSW welcomes the ECIS as a pro-active approach of holding shipping lines accountable for the volumes going out and coming in to the port. We’re hoping the incentives will drive behavioural change and ensure we don’t suffer a repeat of what occurred in late 2020, where Port Botany ceased operating effectively due to the significant build-up of surplus empties clogging ECPs – the L/D ratio falling to less than 0.93.

“Our only concern is that any penalties incurred through the scheme could be passed on to landside operators and we’re calling on NSW Ports to monitor the situation so truckies again, don’t bear the cost of shipping lines and stevedore inaction and we can start delivering productive outcomes for the port supply chain.”

RFNSW acknowledges NSW Ports and members of the Empty Container Working Group for their collaborative efforts in addressing the ECP and congestion issues.

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