The 2020-21 ACCC Container Stevedoring Monitoring Report Causes a Stir Between Shipping Australia and The Container Transport Alliance Australia

The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission’s (ACCC) recent container stevedoring monitoring report 2020-21 is causing a stir between Shipping Australia Limited’s (SAL) CEO, Melwyn Noronha and The Container Transport Alliance Australia’s (CTAA) Director, Neil Chambers.

A high-level meeting was subsequently called by the Department of Home Affairs to discuss the issues in the ACCC report, including port congestion, port performance and industrial relations. Also present were a wide range of representatives from industry and also government officials from bodies such as the Department for Infrastructure and also the Federal Department of Prime Minister and Cabinet. 

Shipping Australia CEO, Melwyn Noronha, told the gathering that uninterrupted international trade is vital to the interests of all Australians. Adding that Australians rely on international trade for jobs, goods and property, he told delegates that ocean shipping carries 99.9% of everything that comes into, or leaves this country.

“The job of a ship is to deliver goods from Port A to Port B. And that is what ships are doing. But when ships arrive at Port B, they are held up. They are forced to wait, sometimes for many hours, before they berth,” he told attendees.

Mr Noronha believes the landside logistics chain is problematic too as there is a mis-match in working hours.

Referring to the recently released container stevedoring report, he noted that the ACCC have demonstrated that port congestion is a problem, that port performance is a problem and that industrial relations in this country is a problem too.

“Ships work 24/7, trucks don’t. They don’t work weekends. They don’t work evenings. They don’t work public holidays. The mismatch doesn’t work,” he told delegates.

Asserting that these problems must be solved, he called – as a minimum – for:

  • good quality port governance and oversight, which must include price monitoring that is tied to port performance
  • ships to be berthed promptly upon arrival
  • enterprise bargaining to have short, strict, timeframes
  • for compulsory arbitration if the parties cannot agree in the timeframes with immediate settlement of the disputes
  • start and expiry dates for waterfront enterprise bargaining agreements to be staggered so that they cannot all be expired at the same time
  • an absolute prohibition on any industrial action that prevents stevedores from working sub-contracted ships
  • the working hours of the trucking industry to be aligned with the working hours of the shipping industry.

“Why? Because uninterrupted trade is vital to the interests of all Australians,” he told attendees. Outside of the meeting, he later added the comment that “ports do not like to be measured on their performance.”

Container Shipping
Image sourced from Pixabay.com

Neil Chambers, Director of The Container Transport Alliance Australia’s reply to Mr Noronha’s comments regarding the container road transport sector:

Sir,

The comments by Shipping Australia’s CEO Melwyn Noronha about the container road transport sector can’t go unchallenged.

Responding to the findings of the ACCC’s Container Stevedoring Monitoring Report 2020-21, Mr Noronha is reported to have made sweeping statements that “Ships work 24/7, trucks don’t. They don’t work weekends. They don’t work evenings. They don’t work public holidays. The mismatch doesn’t work – these problems must be solved.”

CTAA would invite Mr Noronha to come down to a night shift or weekend shift at any one of dozens of container transport companies in any capital city container port in Australia to witness for himself how wrong his perceptions really are of the transport industry.

Generally, the top twenty-five road transport companies in each Australian container port carry approx. 80% of the TEUs through those ports, and almost universally they operate night shifts and on weekends.

As demonstrated through many landside container logistics studies, including the most recent published this year in the Port of Melbourne, without the efforts of road transport operators to clear import containers day and night, stage full imports and exports through transport yards, and deliver export containers into terminals relatively close to vessel loading schedules, Australia’s container terminals would be in gridlock constantly.

Also, ships may come and go on a 24-hour basis, but the same can’t be said for the offices of the container shipping lines servicing Australian trades.

Try calling a shipping line after 5pm Monday to Friday or one weekends to fix a problem or seek a timely release of an Electronic Delivery Order, or get authorisation for an empty container return redirection. And not all shipping line contracted empty container parks across all ports are open during night shift or over weekends.

It’s easy to cast stones from glass houses in Woolloomooloo. However, I suggest Mr Noronha take up the offer to step out one stary night in Port Botany, or Melbourne, or Brisbane, or Adelaide or Fremantle and experience the real world of hard-working container transport operators acting as the glue that keeps container logistics chains functioning in this nation – CTAA would be happy to arrange that.

Kind regards,
Neil Chambers
Director, Container Transport Alliance Australia

Container Shipping

Information sourced from here