Port Botany boils over
Already smarting from a proposal to put a $160/container booking fee on import containers, transport operators have now been hit with the triple whammy of recurring port congestion, empty park delays, and the loss of Sunday as a free storage day.
The stevedores claim they have experienced adverse weather conditions over the past three weeks that have caused extensive delays, from which they have not been able to recover. In addition, Patrick has admitted to be suffering from a chronic bout of absenteeism, whereby a large number of workers have called in sick in addition to those already on leave due to the school holidays.
Import containers must be picked up within three days before the stevedores start charging storage. Up until now, Sunday had not been counted in the three days, but as from the end of the month, both Patrick and DP World will enforce Sunday as a chargeable day. Affected parties say that this is unilateral action that has been brought on by the stevedores without consultation.
Empty container woes
In addition to picking up the full import containers, transport operators must return the empty ones to parks designated by the shipping lines. However, these parks operate on restricted hours, and often experience heavy congestion, adding to the truck drivers’ and operators’ woes.
Sydney Ports puts stevedores on notice
Sydney Ports Corporation Chief Executive, Grant Gilfillan, said he would speak to Ports Minister Joe Tripodi about using regulations to implement landside port reforms if there is not an immediate improvement from stevedores following two weeks of poor performance at Port Botany.
“We will be approaching the Minister to move towards regulation if we don’t see an immediate improvement from the stevedores in the service provided to industry and their cooperation in delivering these reforms,” Mr Gilfillan said.
Mr Gilfillan said delays had affected both terminals over the past two weeks with truck drivers queuing for up to four hours for each trip to the port.
“It is clearly unacceptable to have trucks waiting hours for stevedores to let them into the terminal.”
Mr Gilfillan said changes by stevedores to treat Sunday as a normal working day for charging storage came as a surprise given poor stevedoring performance and the lack of consultation.
“While Sydney Ports supports a transition towards 24/7 operations, it appears the stevedores decided upon these charges and have implemented them on a very short timeframe without speaking to anyone in industry,” Mr Gilfillan said.
“To unilaterally decide they are going to change their pricing regime and make Sunday a normal working day without discussing with anyone is completely against the spirit of the Port Botany reform program.
“The rest of the industry has been patient in waiting for the stevedores to pull their socks up and provide reliable service and timely notice of any delays. So far they have failed to provide either.
“The performance of DP World has been comparatively better than Patrick, but delays and servicing issues have been experienced at both stevedore terminals,” Mr Gilfillan said.
Mr Gilfillan said stevedores were also failing to deliver in implementing new reforms to drive better performance at Port Botany.
“One of the key objectives of PBLIS is to improve communication and the provision of greater transparency of processes and data between industry partners.
“A communications protocol has been agreed with the stevedores yet updates on recent delays have not been given to industry on a timely basis.
“It is disappointing to see this has become a pattern rather than an exception. The information coming from the stevedores is often inconsistent and late.
“We have been working with the stevedores to introduce the reforms on a voluntary basis. To make sure the work on these important reforms is not delayed we will be speaking with the government about using regulations to improve performance at our key trading port,” Mr Gilfillan said.
Transporters: stevedores will hurt trucking industry and the community
New South Wales’ peak trucking industry body, ATA NSW, has expressed outrage over a decision by Port Botany’s two stevedoring companies to scrap its Sunday storage fee exemptions, claiming they will severely impact the trucking industry, put pressure on Sydney’s roads and have a direct cost on local families.
Previously, stevedores Patrick and DP World did not include weekends as part of their usual three days of free storage before they began charging.
However, from this Sunday Patrick has announced it would operate as per normal on Sundays, meaning the day would no longer be exempt when calculating free storage.
The announcement follows news that DP World will also scrap their weekend free storage policy from 1 November.
Chairman of ATA NSW Container Group, Mike Moylan, said the trucking industry was not consulted on the changes, which would increase the cost of all goods passing through the port.
“The first the industry knew of these changes was when the companies announced them. Had they consulted with us, we would have told them of the massive burden they will have on the industry, as well as the wider community,” Mr Moylan said.
“Usually, trucks carry empty containers to the port before picking up full ones, but under these changes operators will be forced to make multiple trips to the port, as the nearby empty container parks aren’t open on Sunday.
“That means that trucks that use the facilities on Sunday will add further pressure to the already stretched road network around the port when the empty container facilities are open.
“Multiple trips also equal higher costs, which will then have to be passed onto consumers, meaning every family will have to pay more for the extra trips we have to make. Storage charges at the port are currently around $160 for the first day.”
ATA NSW Manager, Jill Lewis, said the changes are the first step to 24 hours a day, seven days a week operation.
“The plan is to move to 24/7 operation at the port, but the industry is saying we should get 24/5 operation working efficiently before looking at extending the hours,” Ms Lewis said.
“Without getting the system working effectively at 24/5, all we will be doing is extending the current problems over a longer time period.”
ATA NSW will continue to oppose these changes at all levels.