AusRAIL, Market Sectors

Tripodi calls on IPART to examine Botany problems

<p>The Container Logistics Action Group (CLAG) hopes a review of pricing and access at Port Botany will end a long-running stand-off with the two stevedores, DP World and Toll Holdings, and pave the way for the start of long-awaited negotiations.</p> <p>New South Wales ports minister Joe Tripodi yesterday (Thursday, February 15) referred the issues at the port to the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal.</p> <p>The Port Botany taskforce, established by Mr Tripodi in November, had recommended during its first meeting that he establish a tribunal inquiry into the issues. </p> <p>Mr Tripodi said it was critically important that the stevedores work cooperatively with road and rail carriers to maximise productivity.</p> <p>CLAG &#8211 which claims to represent 70% of the transport operators using the port &#8211 said it had tried unsuccessfully for six months to negotiate with the two stevedores.</p> <p>Toll has previously declined to enter negotiations with the group, choosing instead to deal only with the New South Wales Road Transport Association (NSWRTA).</p> <p>The refusal was despite authorisation from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) in March that gave CLAG the right to bargain collectively with the terminal operators on vehicle booking issues and pricing.</p> <p>In a statement this morning, Toll said it welcomed the opportunity to participate in the review as it was critical that further work was done to improve the road and rail links to and from the port, given that container traffic was expected to triple in the next 20 years.</p> <p>&#8220A review that addresses the congestion issues at Port Botany can only be good for all stakeholders,&#8221 a spokeswoman said.</p> <p>&#8220Patrick has made a number of improvements to its port-land interfaces at Port Botany, including the redevelopment of the terminal to increase its road and rail handling capacity.&#8221</p> <p>DP World was unable to be contacted for comment before press time.</p> <p>Mr Tripodi said the review needed to make the process transparent, especially since the ACCC had found that the stevedores’ review from booking systems had surged by 224% between 2001 and 2006.</p> <p>CLAG lobbyist Martin Feil said the stevedores now faced a choice, having earlier insisted that they would only deal with the NSWRTA.</p> <p>&#8220It’s terrific to see an opportunity to have people consider the facts and figures,&#8221 Mr Feil said.</p> <p>&#8220Normally big business wins.</p> <p>&#8220They have to decide that they are going to participate or else prices might be set at the port that they don’t want to have.</p> <p>&#8220We got a collective bargaining determination and the ACCC only gives them out if they believe it’s in the economy’s interest to have negotiations occur.&#8221</p> <p>Mr Feil said the ACCC had also committed to establishing acceptable turnaround times as part of Toll’s takeover of Patrick last year.</p> <p>Mr Tripodi said the booking systems for truck companies had brought improvements but that there had been &#8220occasional tensions&#8221 between the stevedores and the independent operators concerning access.</p> <p>Mr Feil said the stevedores were in some cases making up to $140 on each container by charging extra fees.</p> <p>Mr Tripodi said the review would also look at the fees being charged for rail access.</p> <p>&#8220There is anecdotal evidence that the rail charges are relatively too high, so IPART will also look at the issue as well as rail access arrangements,&#8221 Mr Tripodi said.</p> <p>The IPART inquiry and associated hearings will take six months to complete, with the NSW Government to have three months to decide whether it will accept the recommendations.</p> <br />