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Port Botany facing gridlock over industrial action

Port Botany

The Freight and Trade Alliance (FTA) says ongoing negotiations between Patrick and unions could have crippling effects on the international trade sector.

Port operator Patrick recently announced a significant proportion of rail windows at Port Botany will be cancelled from 24 June to 15 July.

During the last quarter of 2020, escalated industrial action faced by all three stevedores responsible for loading and unloading container vessels resulted in vessels by-passing the port.

Exporters and importers paid an estimated $330 million in congestion surcharges to recover vessel operational costs.

The FTA raised concerns on the restricted shipping services diminishing returns for manufacturers, farmers and regional communities whilst contributing multi-billion-dollar profits to foreign owned shipping lines.

Patrick and DP World both agreed to continue out of court negotiations with the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) after separate deliberations before the full Fair Work Commission.

DP World subsequently implemented an Enterprise Agreement with their employees.

Patrick and the MUA are yet to agree on terms, however, despite its operations handling more than 40 per cent of overall containerised trade volume via Port Botany.

In a formal notice to rail operators accessing Port Botany, Patrick executive said that it has written to the MUA seeking an exception of certain roles from the industrial action within the rail operations to allow trains to access the terminal.

Paul Zalai, Director of Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA), says the action will have devastating impacts on the New South Wales economy.

“We remain uncertain how much suffering is required before this action can be the pre-requisite trigger required to again take proceedings before the commission,” he says.

Regional exporters reliant on rail to move goods to the port will again face additional logistics costs.

Rail operators will have to terminate their journey at Sydney intermodal terminals with secondary road movements to be made to the port.

“The additional cost is one factor, however a critical concern for the entire import and export supply-chain is that with a bumper season for the agriculture sector, container volumes will quickly mount at these transition points with the intermodals and empty container parks likely to very quickly become heavily congested,” Paul says.

The FTA and the Australian Peak Shippers Association (APSA) is continuing to push for the Federal Government to initiate a broader review on waterfront industrial relations.

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