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Published: 18 January 2011      

Melbourne container park war of words continues

The decision by Maersk and MSC to fund extended hours at the MRS and CC Containers empty container parks (ECPs) in Melbourne has not diminished antagonism between the Victorian Transport Association (VTA), representing truck operators, and peak carrier body Shipping Australia Ltd (SAL).

“Stop listening to the protectionist ramblings of your peak association, SAL, and start listening to your customers’ needs for improved empty park operating hours and practices,” VTA deputy CEO Neil Chambers raged. “This is not about any short-term peak in empty container volumes this season, whether or not this has materialised, or is yet to do so. This is about effective change that will benefit the long term future of the port of Melbourne,” he said.

CEO Llew Russell said that like the VTA, SAL commended the two ECPs’ initiatives. “It is clearly easier for shipowner-owned empty container parks to extend their operating hours than for non-owned parks, but it does emphasise the importance of empty container parks being serious about extending their operating hours even for a trial period,” Russell said.

SAL had been active in surveying all its members to determine whether they would be agreeable to a six-month trial, “but unfortunately the majority view is that, in a number of cases, the empty container parks are being unrealistic regarding the levies that would be required to open for extended hours. Furthermore, there has been a lack of transparency in relation to how the additional costs are being calculated and what potential revenue would arise from the extended levy.”

Russell said Chambers’ assertion that other shipping lines that use CC Containers were clearly disinterested in being part of the trial was a misrepresentation, because those lines would have to pay additional costs, which need to be reasonable and need to be transparent.

And SAL would be referring Chambers to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) over his “anti-competitive statements” that were provocative, deliberately misleading and displaying a lack of understanding of how the Australian Trade Practices Act operates. “We will be urging the ACCC to meet with Mr Chambers to explain the ramifications,” Russell said.

Rather than issue press releases, the VTA should engage in serious action to bring about changes that would benefit the long-term future of ECPs in Melbourne, he said. Russell challenged the VTA to declare:

• Whether or not the VTA supports a vehicle booking system for ECPs “that would provide efficiencies immediately, and certainly by 1 April when the Maximas Container Chain initiative comes into operation in most of the parks”;

• Whether or not VTA members would be willing to pay a reasonable fee for such a system.

SAL concluded that, given that the peak season in January did not appear to have eventuated and cause congestion at ECPs as it did last year, “there is time for the VTA to embrace this initiative within the Maximas Container Chain system to resolve the problems of long truck queues outside empty container parks in metropolitan Melbourne once and for all.”

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