Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Australian And New Zealand Ports Fight For New Container Shipping Business

As Traffic Levels Shrink Intermodal Developments Continue Apace
Shipping News Feature

AUSTRALIA – NEW ZEALAND – The countries port operators are in a battle to develop and maintain facilities in a market which is currently shrinking, yet which they view as potentially profitable enterprises as freight levels recover. In Sydney both the DP World and Patrick handling terminals in Port Botany have come in for bitter criticism from the Sydney Ports Corporation for what is perceived as abysmal service levels with major delays to trucks. Work continues there apace however on the development of the third terminal with news that the first dock buttresses are now in place to support the new quay which will provide a 1.85 kilometre long loading and discharge wharf.

The A$1 billion project however is not without its own critics, based as it is on growth forecasts which seem extreme to many local residents. Add to this the stinging rebukes from both the Australian Trucking Association and NSW Ports Minister Joe Tripodi, who has threatened the dockers with legislative action, and things do not look too comfortable for the development of facilities. It has also been alleged the port management company is proposing construction of an intermodal terminal at a Sydney suburb and using its Government owned status in an attempt to bulldoze plans through.

Meanwhile the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission have drafted an initial decision with regard to the running of five Australian ports to enable stevedores, other than those who are Australian Amalgamated Terminals (AAT) shareholders, to operate within AAT terminals. With the exception of Fremantle, AAT have controlled stevedoring at all major ports in the country. In July they were told by the Court that they had contravened restrictive practices laws and instructed to clean up their act. The group is made up of DP World, Patrick and Asciano interests.

The Commission wishes interested parties to submit comments and proposals to them by the 2nd November using the ACCC website having ruled that the way the industry operated till now meant that those directly affected by the charges and working practices undertaken by AAT had no direct contract with them and therefore no way to negotiate terms with them contractually.

Elsewhere in the region meanwhile there was a call for “rationalisation” of New Zealand’s ports from Port of Tauranga Chairman John Parker. In a statement he said he had been too modest in his praise of the Port when he referred to a profit increase to NZ$45 million as “pleasing”. He apologised for “harping on” about rationalisation but referred to overcapacity and stated,

“It is a matter critical to all New Zealanders. The move to newer and bigger ships was happening anyway but is accelerated by the surplus of tonnage and the obvious desire of ship owners to idle their older, smaller and less efficient container ships.

“These things simply make port rationalisation more urgent. The need already existed for other reasons. New Zealand simply has too many ports, most with negative free cash flow. Currently, no New Zealand port (despite the occasional and deluded denial) can handle the larger vessels already wishing to enter the New Zealand trade. Until they can, the s