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Transport and logistics groups support ACCC concerns on monopoly of privately owned ports

23 October 2020

A national coalition of peak transport and logistics groups is calling on State and Federal Governments to act on concerns about the monopoly power of privately-owned ports as raised this week by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) - at a time when truckies continue to face financially-crippling access fees and other operational charges imposed by stevedores at the Port Botany terminal.

Speaking at the National Press Club in Canberra on Wednesday, ACCC Chair Rod Sims noted that ‘ … there is currently no or little regulation of monopoly privately-owned ports. When these were government-owned political pressure on Ministers kept prices reasonable. But the ports were sold, usually with no control over their pricing in order to maximise the proceeds of sale. The resulting unfettered market power of some ports is costing our nation dearly. In my view, we need a new ‘Part IIIB‘ monopoly regulation regime that would see owners of significant infrastructure with market power subject to some form of price regulation.’

Commenting on Mr Sims’ remarks, Road Freight NSW (RFNSW), the Australian Trucking Association (ATA), the Queensland Trucking Association (QTA), the Victorian Trucking Association (VTA), International Forwarders and Customs Brokers Association (IFCBAA), Australian Furniture Removers Association (AFRA), Western Roads Federation (WRF), South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA), Australian International Movers Association (AIMA) say port Infrastructure and Access Surcharges and Empty Yard Fees, as a percentage of total operating costs, had risen exorbitantly over the past three years, but had failed to deliver productivity gains.

RFNSW Chief Executive Simon O’Hara said: “The recent industrial action at Port Botany showed that the port isn’t functioning. What’s apparent is that the monopolistic behaviour of the stevedores and the NSW Government’s unwillingness to impose much-needed regulations, has led to the current systems failures, which are impacting the whole supply chain. All the industrial action did was rip off the band aid”

ATA A/Chief Executive, Bill McKinley, said: “The ACCC has confirmed, again, that the we need effective price regulation for ports and monopoly infrastructure assets. Without effective price regulation governments are allowing large, mostly foreign-owned corporations to extract market power and price gouge small and family businesses. Governments need to regulate now.”

Peter Anderson, CEO of the Victorian Transport Association said: “What our operators are looking for at the Port of Melbourne is fairness and transparency in how increases to costs are calculated. We would endorse a move to create Part IIIB monopoly regulation power proposed by the ACCC Commissioner in conjunction with a review of Part X of the Competition law that deals with shipping line behaviour. We aren’t against costs, but they have to have fairness of application.”

Gary Mahon from the Queensland Trucking Association (QTA) said: “The QTA endorses the comments made by Rod Sims at the National Press Club. The nation is paying dearly for unregulated monopoly privately owned ports and we endorse his proposal of a new part IIIB Monopoly Regulation that would see owners of significant infrastructure with unchecked market power being subject to some form of price regulation. “

CEO International Forwarders and Customs Brokers Association (IFCBAA) CEO Paul Damkjaer said: “If we stop for a second, have a think about everything around you, the clothes you wear, the car your driving, and the TV that you watch, 9 times out of 10 it’s been imported from overseas. As we know aircraft are not operating to their normal capacity so the majority of items we import are coming by sea. 42.5% of all goods in New South Wales households come through Port Botany and the figure would be similar across Australia. How can the stevedores substantiate such increases in a time that all Australian companies are feeling the pain of COVID-19?” 

AFRA and Australia International Movers Association Executive Director Joe Lopinosaid: “Port charges are adding unwarranted costs to the movement of goods across our borders. Without urgent policy reforms, there are no constraints on stevedores from continuing to impose crippling cost increases on vulnerable transport operators, without any productivity gains.”

Cam Dumesny from Western Roads Federation, said “As the nation embarks upon its COVID-19 recovery strategy, it’s imperative that Governments impose a moratorium on all increases at ports around the country, to ensure stevedores promote economic efficiency and productivity.”

Steve Shearer from the South Australian Road Transport Association (SARTA) said: “The lack of regulation of monopoly privately owned ports has seen increases for operators across Australia and through the supply chain. SARTA endorses Rod Sim’s proposal yesterday and we need new price regulation to deal with the increased costs for our truckies to deliver fairer outcomes particularly given the pressures of COVID mean that the industry cant afford unjustified price increases without productivity outcomes.”