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Minister supports alliance’s concerns of increased port fees

Melissa Horne, Minister for Ports and Freight has written to the Freight and Trade Alliance (FTA) following its advocacy against DP World increasing access charges scheduled for Melbourne and Brisbane.

According to the correspondence seen by MHD,  Melissa Horne said in an email to Paul Zalai, FTA director on Thursday April 23 that she was “disappointed to learn that DP World is to increase its access charges again for importers at the Port of Melbourne for the second time in four months at short notice”.

In her email to Paul, Melissa said the decision was particularly disappointing, coming at a time when Victoria is experiencing unprecedented pressures and disruptions across the port supply chain as a result of the COVID-19 crisis.

Melissa is facing pressure from the industry to intervene after DP World announced it would increase access charges for truck and rail operators collecting cargo from the Port of Melbourne and also Brisbane on May 1st this year.

DP World said it would hike the cost of imports from $98 per full container to $125 at the West Swanson Terminal from May 1, while export fees would be lowered from $98 to $79.50.

“DP World’s decision runs counter to our commitment to pricing transparency, and points clearly to the need for the new standards we are now developing,” Melissa said in her correspondence to Paul.

“I have asked DP World to explain the rationale for the price increase they have announced, and have raised my concerns with the timing of the announcement during the COVID-19 crisis and so soon after the last increase in these charges.”

Paul said the industry is heading towards advocating state governments regulation to stop the use of stevedore-imposed Infrastructure Surcharges.

He also warned that struggling exporters who are reliant on imported products would suffer, including those who sell to supermarkets if charges increase.

“It will be a big call for DP World to again snub state governments warnings at time where state governments are clearly rallying to give essential support to Australian exporters and importers,” Paul said.

He think stevedores should be given appropriate notice to allow negotiations of charges with shipping lines.

“This outcome would allow market forces to take effect leaving an open and competitive environment to determine appropriate price for services without the need for further government monitoring or intervention,” Paul said.

Prior to Melissa’s email, the FTA received correspondence from Andrew Constance, NSW Transport Minister.

“Given the unprecedented situation posed by the coronavirus and the crucial role of all parties involved in the supply chain and in moving freight during this pandemic, it is the NSW government’s strong view that now is not the time to increase charges,” Andrew said in a letter to FTA.

“I have therefore called for restraint from the Port Botany stevedores in not increasing infrastructure access surcharge charges for at least the duration of the COVID-19 response.”

Andrew said he has asked DP World not to proceed with planned fee changes in May.

DP World lifted fees in January, also plans to introduce split fees, charging $112.10 to collect containers from Port Botany from May 8, and $125 to collect containers from Melbourne’s West Swanson terminal from May 1.

It currently charges both importers and exporters $91 per container at Port Botany  and $98 per container at West Swanson.

“We’re hopeful of finding a solution for everyone as we navigate this unprecedented situation,” Andrew said.

Negotiations between the government and industry will be ongoing.

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