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Caught in the middle: shippers, truckers suffer wharf strikes

Port of Melbourne container truck queue

Shipping lines are being urged to provide detention relief as a strike at the wharf causes container havoc for Australian shippers and transport operators.
Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA), the Australian Peak Shippers Association (APSA) and Container Transport Alliance of Australia (CTAA) have appealed to shipping lines to waive container detention and related charges as a result of the escalation of industrial action at DP World Australia (DPWA) terminals.
The DPWA Enterprise Agreement (EA) expired on 28 February 2019, with no public sign that DPWA is any closer to finalising a new agreement through negotiations with the maritime union. Protected industrial action is now underway, resulting in escalating stoppages this week at DPWA terminals in Brisbane, Sydney, Fremantle and Melbourne.

The latest increase in protected industrial action has seen the cessation of all DPWA terminal operations in Brisbane on Monday, 8 July, which will roll on to Melbourne (Wednesday, 10 July), Fremantle and Sydney (Friday, 12 July) for 48-hour periods.
These stoppages will result in containers being stranded in DPWA terminals nationally.

“While DPWA has previously made efforts to reduce the impact on Australian shippers, by extending import availability times, waiving storage and sub-contracting vessels, shipping lines also need to be sympathetic in considering financial relief at the end of the container logistics chain through the waiver of container detention fees,” said director of Freight & Trade Alliance Travis Brooks-Garrett.

FTA/CTAA/APSA have called on the shipping lines to extend free time on container detention for all containers effected by the escalating dispute and to waive associated charges.
“Shipping lines need to do more to protect their customers. This is not business as usual. This is a real test of how shipping lines treat their customers locally”.

“Stevedore partners are appointed by the shipping lines, not the shippers or transport operators,” said director of the CTAA Neil Chambers. “Shipping lines cannot wipe their hands of accountability, they are a party to the current disruption and need to play a role in minimising the impact to their shippers and reducing associated costs.

“If import containers are held up in DPWA terminals and the shipping lines maintain their strict detention free timeframes, there will be little physical chance for the containers to be processed through the landside supply chain and be returned empty to the designated location in the time allocated.
“Transport operators certainly will not be accepting unrealistic container return timeframes, leaving importers exposed to potentially significant detention penalties, unless shipping lines change their policies in these exceptional circumstances,” Mr Chambers said.
Mr Brooks-Garrett concluded: “FTA, APSA and CTAA will also be providing updates to the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) as to how the shipping lines are responding to these exceptional circumstances locally.”

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