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Local News - Victoria

Minister slams stevedore fee hike on importers


DP World said it would hike the cost of imports from $98 per full container to $125 at the West Swanson Terminal from May 1, while export fees would be lowered from $98 to $79.50.

Penalties for truck drivers who do not arrive on time or miss their assigned slot would also rise from $150 to $210.

It comes as a government-commissioned review by Deloitte added to calls by the nation’s competition watchdog for tighter standards to be placed on the industry in order to control pricing and improve transparency at the port, which was privatised by the Andrews government in 2016.

The landside supply chain is facing significant pressures due to stevedore access charges and levies imposed by shipping lines, with the costs flowing on to the Victorian economy, Deloitte warned.

Container Transport Alliance Australia director Neil Chambers said DP World’s fee hike was “tone deaf” and showed the company wasn’t “attuned to what’s going on in the Australian economy”.

He warned that small to medium-sized importers in manufacturing, construction and retail would feel the pinch the hardest, and the cost would be passed to consumers.

‘This is tone deaf to the plight of companies at the moment who don’t know if they will still have a business in six months.’

Container Transport Alliance Australia director Neil Chambers

“This is tone deaf to the plight of companies at the moment, particularly in the supply chain, who don’t know if they will still have a business in six months,” Mr Chambers said.

“We’ve been asking the Victorian government to at least regulate the pricing … it’s just a free-for-all. The stevedores can do what they want with seeming impunity.”

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It was positive that struggling farmers impacted by the drought would get some relief, he said, but this should not be cross-subsidised by importers. The fee change was largely aimed to match new charges imposed by rival stevedore company Patrick earlier this year, he said.

Victorian Transport Association chief executive Peter Anderson said there was an urgent need for a “regulatory mechanism” to deal with escalating port costs.

“It’s appalling,” he said. “Everybody is taking a hit in their business, getting reduced revenues and trying to hang onto staff and DP World wants to put up a rate increase.”

Trade Alliance director Paul Zalai also warned that struggling exporters who are reliant on imported products would suffer, including those who sell to supermarkets.

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The cost of importing a 20-foot container has increased by 6 per cent since 2010, while the cost of exporting has risen by 13 per cent, Deloitte found.

Port infrastructure charges represent 15 per cent of stevedore revenues, with the price hike largely driven by “unexplained costs” levied by shipping lines.

Victoria’s economic regulator warned of a “lack of transparency” over rising rental fees at the port, in a report released this month that noted the monopoly hold Lonsdale Consortium had on the port.

Property revenue made up almost 29 per cent of the port’s total income in 2018-19, up from 14 per cent in 2015-16, the Essential Services Commission’s report found.

In response to questions from The Age, DP World general manager Sean Barrett acknowledged that “global and local trade continues to be impacted by the COVID-19 crisis”, and said the new measures would assist exporters.

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