Coal terminal workers to take industrial action

Union members working at Port Waratah Coal Services have voted to take industrial action as pay negotiations come to a stand still.

Maritime Union of Australia branch secretary Mick Forbes said the vote for industrial action had been overwhelming.

Five unions represent workers at the two PWCS loaders.

Forbes said PWCS wants to change enterprise bargaining clauses related to dispute settlement and contracting, Newcastle Herald reported.

Forbes described the proposed changes as “union busting”.

An MUA spokesperson told LMH any industrial action specifics ‘will be decided by the rank and file members in the future.’

The spokesperson said the main issues the unions were concerned with was job security including the settlement procedure of contract issues, what matters can be arbitrated and concerns over the use of contractors.

PWCS chief executive Hennie du Plooy said denied the company was ‘‘anti-union’’.

Yesterday PWCS announced it had agreed to accept reduced tonnages from local miners as producers had advised that the fall in demand for coal handling services was due to falls in production as a result of lower prices and higher export costs.


T4 coal loader in doubt

Hunter Valley miners have told Port Waratah Coal Services that the amount of coal they handle will drop, again putting the T4 loader on Kooragang Island in doubt.

Port Waratah Coal Services (PWCS) chief Henry du Plooy said coal producers in the region has advised that the fall in demand for coal handling services was due to falls in production as a result of lower prices and higher export costs.

Du Plooy said today PWCS had agreed to accept reduced tonnages.

“The acceptance of these reductions means there is currently no capacity shortfall to be fulfilled through the proposed T4 project,” the company said.

Du Plooy said the decision is a positive and appropriate outcome for the industry in challenging times.

“Coal producers who do not require all tonnages previously contracted for have been able to reduce their exposure to ship or pay obligations while producers who still require greater capacity for coal handling and were expecting to reply upon T4 now have access to exiting capacity, increasing certainty and timing,” he said.

“At a time when the industry is experiencing significant economic challenges, PWCS has also been able to reduce coal handling costs for producers by avoiding unnecessary project expenditure.”

Early last month, du Plooy told reporters at a vineyards coal conference that due to falling demand, the company was looking to expand its existing loader on the island instead of building the T4.

Du Plooy said that coal companies were shipping 20 per cent less coal now than when the deal was struck to build the T4

Du Plooy told the conference the approvals process had added another year to the project, with T4 unlikely to gain approval before 2014.

This means construction would take another three years, with the original operating date being pushed back 2018.

In 2009, Port Waratah was given the opportunity to build a new coal loading terminal, known as Terminal 4 (or T4), as part of a wider long term agreement to service the Hunter's growing coal industry.

However late last year, the company cut the capacity of the T4 coal loader by nearly two-thirds to just 25 million tonnes a year.

Today PWCS said it would continue to seek the development approval for T4.

NSW Minerals Council CEO Stephen Galilee said delays and uncertainty in mine project approvals have contributed to the decision to accept reductions in tonnages.

“This is proof that the State planning system is hurting the Hunter coal industry and the NSW economy at a time when it is already struggling to remain globally competitive in the face of low prices, a strong Australian dollar and high costs,” Galilee said.

Rio Tinto, part of the consortium that backs PWCS was shocked last month when approval for the expansion of its Warkworth mine was overturned.

Galilee says the decision had led to decreased production estimates.

“Coal is our State’s most valuable export commodity and provides around 85 per cent of our electricity. Global challenges are already hurting the industry. A poor planning system will diminish confidence to invest in NSW, damage competitiveness and jeopardise jobs.”

Asciano to slash costs and jobs

Transport and logistics operator Asciano has announced plans to slash $250 million in spending with jobs cuts expected, blaming tough economic conditions.

The company has cut capital expenditure this year from $700-800 million to $575-625 million.

"If soft economic conditions continue into FY14 management has further flexibility to re-phase capital expenditure to more appropriately align with top line growth," the company said in a presentation to the Macquarie Australia Conference in Sydney.

SMH reports that affected projects could include new trains and freight terminals in the Pacific National Rail coal network.

The company said that some redundancies would now be pushed forward into this quarter instead of waiting until the end of 2013.

The company's latest quarterly update showed its Pacific National Rail volumes fell 3.4 per cent, which it blamed on soft volumes.

It showed that container volumes at its ports also dropped by 4.1%.

However despite falling volumes, the company said it still expected revenue fore the second half of the year to be up.

Earlier this year, the company posted a net profit of $199 million for the six months to December, a 7.45 per cent increase on the same period last year.

The report trumped analyst expectations of $171 million profit, with the company declaring an interim dividend of 5.25%, fully franked.

The result was driven by volume growth in Pacific National Coal following new contacts in Queensland, and growth from contracts in the Hunter Valley, the company said.

Private lease an option for Gladstone port

The Queensland Government announced it may issue long-term private lease operations for the Port of Gladstone.

The government flagged it would look into the viability of replacing Gladstone Ports Corporation (GPC) with private operators to run sections of the multi-billion dollar port.

The Newman Government yesterday responded to findings of the Commission of Audit, headed by former Federal Treasurer Peter Costello, released for the first time yesterday, Gladstone Observer reported.

Treasurer Tim Nicholls said a decision had not been made but said some services could be outsourced before the next election.

Nearby Port of Mackay is operated by the private sector, while still government owned.

"That's one of the options; there are a number of options," Nicholls said.

"We could have partial leases. So we could lease to the person who wants to lease the RG Tanna Coal Terminal, but we could have another lease if another person wanted to operate Barney Point."

Gladstone Regional Mayor Gail Sellers said any decision to privatise the port would  devastate the local community.

"Obviously, we are devastated this asset will be lost to the community for generations to come," Sellers said.

Deputy Premier and Central Queensland MP Jeff Seeney said a long term lease would mean the port remained owned by the government.

"The Government has made no decision yet to sell Government businesses and remains fully committed to seeking a mandate from the people of Queensland before divesting itself of any Government businesses, if that decision is made," he said.

Organiser for the state Maritime Union of Australia in Gladstone, Jason Miners said job losses would be inevitable with a private sector lease.

"It's a race to the bottom, that's how all these privatisations work. The Government sells it out and jobs get cut; it's a real kick in the guts for maritime workers in Gladstone," he said.

Miners said privatisation could make the port less safe.

"Currently, the port's well-maintained and employs a lot of people, it's the centre of Gladstone – for that to be damaged is a disgrace.''


Hutchison leads short list of contenders for new Melbourne port terminal

Hong Kong billionaire Li Ka-shing’s Hutchison Ports is seen as the leading contender in the bid to operate a new container terminal in Melbourne.

The SMH reports that the Port of Melbourne has released a short list of four bidders for the $1.2 billion port to be located at Webb Dock East.

The other candidates include Qube Logistics, a Macquarie-backed consortium and another group which comprises Anglo Ports and an Asian ports operator.

As Melbourne’s third port, this new terminal will be mandated to shift at least a million containers each year. It is expected to open in late 2016.

The four bidders will need to lodge their proposals by September.  The winner is expected to be announced early in 2014.

Hutchison Ports has already been awarded the right to become the third operator in Brisbane, where it recently opened its terminal at Fisherman Island. And it has been awarded the right to open a port in Sydney and plans to do so at Port Botany by the end of this year.

The third terminal will constitute the main part of a $1.6 billion makeover of the port. It includes about 30 hectares of waterfront and an adjoining empty container facility.

Conference sets port automation agenda

A conference being held in Sydney today will probe the future of port automation and examine how trade unions should be best involved in the practice.

160 representatives from 11 maritime unions on 10 countries will meet in Sydney today to discuss how set the union agenda on port automation.

The ITF say that dockers have long experiences in adapting to new technologies onsite and that their technological skills make them an essential part of the automation debate.

ITF president and dockers’ section chair Paddy Crumlin said workers’ interests were paramount in any automation discussions.

“We are united in the view that automation will not be imposed, it will come through negotiation,” he said.

“We are building the widest possible alliance to ensure workers’ interests are represented, and employers would be well advised to understand that a global network is solidifying and strengthening its resolve to respond decisively to unilaterally imposed automation.”

Crumlin said the unions would come down hard on companies trying to force automation on their workforce without proper process.

“Unions are committed to dialogue with employers which is open and fair. However, the others, the employers who try to use automation as a means to try and destroy unions, impose excessive job cuts and remove conditions of work should know that we will take action against them,” he said.

Ray Familathe, vice president mainland of the US International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), and ITF dockers’ section second vice chair said workers played an important role in ports.

“Our goal is to protect permanent employment for all registered dockworkers throughout the world, whether it’s in traditional cargo-handling terminals or fully automated container terminals,” he stated.

Ports as gateways: 2013 WA Ports Conference

The 2013 WA Ports Conference is set to challenge those attending to consider how value is created by ports and highlight the importance of interdependent and collaborative relationships with private industry.

The conference, to be held in Perth on the 16th of May, will see key decision makers and industry experts sharing their knowledge about the value chain, and the important role ports play.

Chief of Port Dampier Authority, Steve Lewis, told LMH that ports had a unique position in understanding the whole supply chain.

“Ports have a very unique position in the value chain: they can see every element of it,” he said.

“They can see their customers supply chain, they understand it and can see what the communities expectations are.

“We understand environment, security and safety, so we can put it all together to get the maximum value out of it.

“That’s unique position and where ports can actually step up a level.”

Lewis said the theme of the conference, Ports as Gateways, was chosen to deliberately highlight an expansive way of thinking about how value can be added to supply chains.

“What we’re trying to bring to people’s mind is gateway thinking and how to create value in every one of the decisions you make,” he said.

“It’s about seeing opportunities and gaps to fill and thinking this way to ensure opportunities aren’t missed.”

Lewis said the conference would highlight case studies where companies were able to save millions of  dollars.

“The gateway thinking happening at Dampier has been utilised by companies like Rio Tinto to leverage off and save million of dollars in their own supply chains,” he said.

“What we’re advocating at the conference is that everyone in that chain, resource companies suppliers etc, to see that they can get tremendous value from ports if we all step it up a level.”

“It’s not just theory, we’re not thinking this will be a great idea, we’ve been doing it for at least the last three or four years and have kicked some fantastic goals which these customers can see.”

Speakers at the conference include, CEO of Rio Tinto Iron Ore Pilbara Supply Chain, Clayton Walker, supply chain manager of Apache Energy Limited Alistair McGregor, and director of the British Ports Association David Whitehead.

Infrastructure upgrade slated for the nation’s north

New Northern Territory Chief Minister says his government is committed to spending more money on road, rail and port projects to create jobs and boost business in the state.

Adam Giles made a speech at the NT Cattlemen's Association conference, telling the industry he is committed to developing more infrastructure so the cattle industry could thrive, the ABC reported.

"There's a lot of areas of concern in the logistical framework about the way we do business," he said.

"We're trying to make improvements both in our rail, road and port infrastructure and I think that, as changes are made over time, the seamless transition in that approach will be much better."

Giles told the conference that the northern state was receiving an increased focus from the federal government, which would help get projects off the ground.

"The future looks really, really bright,"  he said.

"But what we have to do in this timeframe, from now until the next couple of years, is really get our structures right so that we spend the time investing in the framework and then business will benefit in the longer run."


Massive upgrades to Melbourne Port begin

Work has begun on a three-year $1.6 billion upgrade for the Port of Melbourne, the largest container port in Australia.

In a statement Victorian Premier Denis Napthine said the Port Capacity Project would be a huge boost to the state, and create thousands of new jobs in the transport and logistics sectors.


“This is a project of massive significance that will create 1,100 new direct jobs and 1,900 indirect jobs in the export, import and freight sectors,” he said,


“It will also protect thousands of existing jobs and cement the Port of Melbourne’s position as Australia’s busiest container port, and ensure Victoria remains the nation’s freight and logistics capital.”


According to Construction Source work on the port upgrade will include:


  • Redevelopment of Webb Dock with the aim of returning it to its original role as an international container handling facility and expanding its handling capacity to at least one million containers each year.

  • Creation of a state of the art automotive facility on the Western side of Webb Dock with capacity to handle 600,000 vehicles annually.

  • Direct road connections from Webb Dock to the M1 Westgate Freeway.

  • Reconfiguration of external road linkages at Swanston Dock.

  • Work on nearby parks and buffers, including minor modifications to Pearce White Reserve in Port Melbourne and Westgate Park adjoining the Webb Dock precinct, as well as improvements to other buffer zones, including those along Todd Road and the Webb Dock perimeter.

Minister for Ports David Hodgett said the start of construction marked an “important milestone” for the state's industry.


He also said the works were subject to strict environmental and community management schemes.  

Making intermodal freight work more efficient

The ALC Forum 2013 will see industry and union leaders debate the steps that need to be taken to improve efficiency and productivity at Australian ports and intermodal terminals.

The ALC Forum 2013 is being held from 12-14 March at the Melbourne Cricket Ground.

“2013 will be a big year for operators of Australia’s major ports and intermodal facilities with a number of significant initiatives in the pipeline aimed at improving freight efficiency and productivity,” said Ian Murray AM, session chair and executive director of the Export Council of Australia.

“These include major infrastructure projects to improve capacity at Port Botany and Port of Melbourne, Asciano’s plans to automate its operations in Sydney; the pending announcement of a third stevedore at the Port of Melbourne and the refinancing of Port Botany.

“There is also progress occurring at Moorebank, which Forum delegates can hear about from the newly appointed Chair of the Moorebank Intermodal Company, Dr Kerry Schott.

“When you combine these works with a greater focus by government on the need to improve overall port efficiency, as evidenced by the implementation of the National Ports Strategy and the development of a range of state based freight strategies, it is pleasing to see momentum is building in this critical area.

"It is equally clear however more needs to be done to make intermodal freight work more effectively in our cities to ensure the smooth and efficient flow of freight to and from our major ports," Murray added.

“One of the keys to this is achieving a more seamless interface between the different modes of transport and their linkages with appropriate road, rail and port infrastructure.

“Getting this infrastructure and their key linkages right, and ensuring they are supported by appropriate regulatory settings, is critical to boosting the efficiency of the sector. It is also a key ingredient to developing more sustainable and liveable cities, particularly for those people who live in and around our international gateways.

“I’m looking forward to a diverse range of industry and union leaders discussing this issue in what promises to be a fascinating session at the ALC Forum 2013,” he said.

The Improving Productivity at our Australian Ports and Intermodal Terminals is being held at 2.00pm on Wednesday 13 March 2013.

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