ACCC orders stevedores to change unfair contracts

Three container stevedore companies have amended their contracts with land transport businesses after the ACCC raised concerns that certain terms in each of these agreements may be unfair contract terms.
DP World Australia, Hutchison Ports Australia and Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT) agreed, after the ACCC’s intervention, to remove or amend terms in their standard form contracts that the ACCC considered were likely to be considered ‘unfair’ within the meaning of the Australian Consumer Law.
DP World and Hutchison had contract terms that allowed a stevedore to unilaterally vary terms in the agreements without notice, including fees paid by the land transport operators.
DP World and Hutchison also had terms that limited their liability for loss or damage suffered by the transport businesses, while not offering the transport businesses the same protections. VICT’s contract had a term requiring transport businesses to indemnify VICT for loss or damage, with no reciprocal obligation on VICT.
DP World’s standard agreement also required the transport businesses to pay the stevedore’s legal costs and expenses, in circumstances where such payments would normally be determined by court order.
The three stevedores cooperated with the ACCC’s investigation and agreed to remove or amend the terms. Hutchison has made its commitments in a court enforceable undertaking and will also place a corrective notice on its website and put in place a compliance program.
Those contract terms which previously allowed the stevedore to amend the contract without notice have either been removed, or now require the stevedore to give 30 days’ notice of any changes, including for any price rises.
“Thousands of transport businesses, which have standard form agreements with DP World, Hutchison and VICT, stand to benefit from these changes,” ACCC Commissioner Sarah Court said.
“The handling of containers has a direct bearing on the cost of goods in Australia and the competitiveness of Australian exports, so it is crucial for businesses and consumers that the supply chain operates fairly and efficiently.”
The ACCC launched its investigation in early 2018 following concerns being raised about alleged unfair terms in contracts between container stevedores and land transport operators, such as rail and trucking businesses.
The ACCC’s 2018 Container Stevedore Monitoring Report noted the ACCC was assessing unfair contract terms within the industry. The ACCC has now concluded that assessment.
The court enforceable undertaking given by Hutchison can be found at Hutchison Ports Australia Pty Limited.

Melbourne’s VICT declared dangerous by the ITF

The Victorian International Container Terminal (VICT) at Melbourne’s Webb Dock has been declared a Port of Convenience (PoC) by the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) at its 44th Congress in Singapore.
ITF president Paddy Crumlin said unions believe a fatal accident could be imminent at VICT, with a number of serious safety-related incidents reported by the workforce recently.
“It is a big step to declare a Port of Convenience but VICT continues to ignore the entirely justified concerns of its workforce over their safety and shift arrangements,” said Mr Crumlin, who is also the national secretary of the Maritime Union of Australia.
The ITF-affiliated MUA has been campaigning against the Philippine-based multinational port operator ICTSI over the significant undercutting of rates, conditions and industry standards on the Australian waterfront, the shifting of automated port jobs to the Philippines, and poor safety standards at the VICT terminal.
VICT is also currently facing legal action over the unlawful sacking of a union delegate and paying wages that undercut the legal minimum wages under the industry award.
“All maritime affiliates are now considering what lawful action may be required to give effect to the PoC campaign,” added Mr Crumlin.
The ITF has uncovered serious exploitation across ICTSI’s global terminals with the company fast becoming one of the most controversial in the maritime industry.
“Globally, ICTSI’s workers are underpaid and overworked, harassed and coerced, and union members often face intimidation in retaliation for raising workplace issues,” Mr Crumlin said.
“ICTSI has tried to bring its anti-worker business model, that they have run out all over the world, to Australia and we won’t tolerate it.”
MUA deputy national secretary Will Tracey said two workers at the VICT terminal were recently hospitalised, and the entire workforce is now fearing more serious accidents following the recent introduction of dramatically increased working hours.
“This workplace is unsafe and threatens the standards that union activists over generations have built up. The transferring of automated jobs offshore is something the MUA will fight with all our resources and all the resources of the Australian trade union movement,” Mr Tracey said.
“Hopefully, this step can ramp up pressure on the company to intervene immediately before a worker is killed or seriously injured,” Mr Tracey added.

When ‘Me Too’ takes on a different meaning: VICT jumps on board with charge

In what the CTAA calls a further ‘cash grab’ directed at the landside container logistics sector, Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT) at Webb Dock in the Port of Melbourne has followed the larger stevedore companies Patrick Terminals and DP World Australia in announcing the introduction of an Infrastructure Surcharge of $48.00 per full import or export container commencing from 27 March 2018.
Citing “a review of market conditions”, VICT lists its commitment to landside efficiency as a reason of implementing the Infrastructure Surcharge. However, landside logistics operators would ask: “what’s changed since the terminal was built?”
“If we cut though the BS, the real reason for the announcement is that VICT needs to prepare itself to offer lower stevedoring rates to foreign shipping lines to stay competitive in bid processes against the other stevedores. And in what is now considered a ‘free-for-all’ in an unregulated market, all they need to do is collect their lost revenue projections from the transport operators (and ultimately importers and exporters) on a ‘take it or leave it basis’,” observed CTAA director Neil Chambers.
“This gives the term ‘Me Too’ a whole new meaning!”
In 2014, VICT won a competitive bid process to build and operate the new container terminal at Webb Dock. VICT built the facility in the full knowledge of the costs involved, the landside capacity of the terminal and the technology they have implemented.
“To now claim that they need to be rewarded for landside efficiencies and good truck turnaround times is laughable,” Neil Chambers said.
“The fact is that while VICT does have consistent truck turnaround times, they still cause inefficiencies in landside logistics operations due to their limited truck entry operating hours.
“The larger container transport operators would prefer VICT to open during night shift when a large bulk of container movements to/from container terminals occurs in the Port of Melbourne.”
“By only operating mostly during daylight hours, transport operators are forced to use additional trucks to meet the import/export task. That’s more trucks on the road during the day, including peak hours, than there needs to be, at added costs for transport operators.
“Also, while CTAA advocated strongly for, and welcome from VICT, the increase in their payment terms to 30 days (from the date of the invoice), there is still a considerable lag between when transport operators need to pay these exorbitant Infrastructure Surcharges (or face a ban from the terminal is they don’t) and the time taken to collect those fees from their customers – importers & exporters.
“The cash-flow implications for transport operators have yet again been stretched.
“As we did when DP World increased its infrastructure surcharges and Patrick Terminals followed suit recently, we again call on the Federal Government to investigate whether there is now sufficient ‘market failure’ in container logistics pricing through Australian ports to warrant regulatory intervention.
“All shipping lines charge shippers (importers and exporters) a terminal handling charge (THC), traditionally covering the cost of handling containers at the container terminal, including to/from the stack and landside movements.
“We haven’t seen evidence of shipping lines decreasing their THC in line with lower negotiated stevedore rates. So the question has to be asked whether shippers (importers / exporters) are paying twice for the same service?
“The situation now exists where overseas owned and controlled shipping lines are profiting from this cost shifting, at the expense of Australia’s import & export competitiveness.
“We now have a new Federal Transport & Infrastructure Minister – the third in so many months. We’d hope that Mr McCormack takes action to investigate the impact of the current unregulated nature of container logistics landside infrastructure pricing, as well as the quantum of the terminal handling charges levied by the shipping lines.”
The notice from VICT is reproduced beow in full:
Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT) – Notice to Customers – 27 February 2018
Following a review of our terminal charges and market conditions, VICT has decided to implement an Infrastructure Surcharge of $48.00. Customers are advised that the charge will commence as of 27th March 2018.
Following a review of market conditions, we consider that it is appropriate to introduce an Infrastructure Surcharge. The Infrastructure Surcharge allows VICT to remain competitive in the market as a viable alternative container terminal.
Since commencing operations in 2017, VICT has committed to having landside efficiency at the forefront of our innovation, which we have done and continue to do. This has optimised our Truck Turnaround Times, increased utilisation of trucks and improved safety conditions. VICT remains dedicated to continuous improvement in providing leading landside services.
The Infrastructure Surcharge will be applied to all standard import and export full containers (R&D via road). Road transport operators will be invoiced electronically through existing weekly invoices. The $10 Chain Of Responsibility charge per container will no longer be an additional charge, and will instead be absorbed into the Infrastructure Surcharge from 27th March 2018.
We are aware of customer feedback regarding the introduction of infrastructure surcharges more generally in the market. Having listened to customer feedback on cash flow concerns around additional charges, we will extend our payment terms from 7 to 30 days from invoice issue date and we are also looking to implement EFTPOS payment facilities soon. We will make further announcements on this shortly.
VICT carrier access agreement will be updated accordingly and facility access will be conditional on payment of these charges as per our terms and conditions from 27th March onwards. Please contact VICT’s Landside Team on 03 8547 9700 if you require any further clarification with regard to this surcharge.

Port of Melbourne industrial action "sovereign risk": VTA

The Port of Melbourne risks becoming an “international laughing stock” if industrial action that has disrupted stevedore Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT) is permitted to continue, according to the Victorian Transport Association (VTA).
The VTA’s warning is in response to VICT’s revelation that the person the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) is pressuring the stevedore to employ is ineligible to work on docks under Australian law because he failed to obtain a Maritime Security Identification Card.
“It is an affront to every Port of Melbourne stevedore and freight operator working in and around the port that the Victorian economy is continuing to be held to ransom by the MUA over what we now understand is a legal reason for this individual being ineligible for employment at the docks,” said VTA CEO, Peter Anderson.
“The effects of this ongoing action at our busiest time of the year are being felt right throughout the economy when you consider that the more than 1000 containers and their contents sitting idle at Webb Dock cannot be brought to market and sold to consumers during our peak retail trading period.
“Not only are VICT and the hundreds of freight operators that cannot move containers in and out of the terminal being impacted by this recalcitrant industrial action, so too are hundreds of small business operators and their families that are being denied access to goods demanded by Victorian consumers.”
Anderson said it was a potential sovereign risk to the broader Victorian economy and the Port of Melbourne’s position as the nation’s largest port if the action is allowed to continue.
“VICT is already losing business to other Port of Melbourne stevedores through this action, but if foreign exporters determine Melbourne is an unreliable destination for freight forwarders they will send their business to ports in other states, at a massive cost to our economy,” said Anderson.
“So, while this action may be confined to VICT for now, the real risk as we see it is the long-term reputational and economic damage the action will create for Victoria as a place to do business.”
Anderson implored all stakeholders involved in the action to put the interests of the Victorian economy first and work constructively to bring an end to industrial action that is undermining the state’s hard-fought reputation as a reliable place to do business.
“This is not the time for our leaders to run and hide but rather confront the real issue of adverse union action that is brutal and selfish, and has a negative effect on the livelihoods all Victorians,” he said.

VICT Webb Dock dispute becomes the Christmas Grinch

Container transport companies, truck drivers and shippers are feeling the impact of a union picket that has been in place at Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT) in the Port of Melbourne for several days.
The picket has forced VICT to turn away hundreds of trucks that pick up and deliver containers to the Webb Dock terminal.
“This picket is costing container transport companies, their import and export customers, and Victorian consumers tens of thousands of dollars a day” said CTAA director Neil Chambers.
“The pretence for this dispute centres on the inability of a single individual to obtain a valid Maritime Security Identification Card (MSIC) to work in the restricted landside zone inside the container terminal,” Mr Chambers said.
“Every day, the Commonwealth Government issues or rejects applications for MSIC. MSIC is an issue of national security and critical to the protection of our ports, and particularly the people who work in them.
“Why on earth would the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) hold the Victorian community to ransom over a person who’s ineligible to hold a MSIC? Also, there are appeal processes available under security law which we assume the individual has pursued? Surely the community and the union should feel safer that the system is working.
“Stopping hard-working container truck drivers, all of whom are required to hold valid MSIC, from going about their daily work is irresponsible. These drivers, the transport companies and the Victorian community are entitled to a fair go.
“It is not out of the question that container transport companies and their shipper customers may seek financial compensation through the courts if this uncalled for picket continues,” he added.
Already, CTAA has identified how Victorians are being adversely affected.
“We’ve got reports of urgent imported medical supplies being held up, as well as goods imported for Christmas sales, and containers full of perishable goods like seafood destined for Christmas festive tables.”
With only four weeks until Christmas, retail customers desperately need their import containers to meet Christmas demand.
On the export side, there are hundreds of containers of agricultural and general goods held up that will miss sailings and impact on important overseas trade contracts for hard working Australian farmers and manufacturers.
“If this picket is really a community protest as reported by the MUA, then surely the community has made its point and it’s now time for Victoria Police, Fair Work Australia (FWA), the courts, the Port of Melbourne and the Government to assist in ensuring that normal operations are resumed immediately,” Mr Chambers said.
CTAA also called on the main overseas shipping line affected, Hong Kong based Orient Overseas Container Line (OOCL) to suspend their container detention and demurrage arrangements for all imported containers affected by the delay.


VICT world's first fully automated terminal

Cargo handing solutions provider Kalmar and shipping technology company Navis, both part of cargo and load handling solutions company Cargotec, have delivered the first OneTerminal automation solution to International Container Terminal Services Incorporated (ICTSI) at the Port of Melbourne.
Kalmar OneTerminal provides an integrated automation solution, bringing together Kalmar and Navis software systems, equipment and services. The deployment was completed ahead of schedule, making Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT) the world’s first fully automated international container handling facility.
“VICT was designed, and is now equipped, to be fully automated, making it the most advanced container terminal in the world,” said Christian Gonzalez, Chairman, Christian Gonzalez, VICT, and Chairman and Senior Vice President – Asia-Pacific Region, ICTSI. “We chose Kalmar’s cutting-edge technology and equipment and Navis’ software and it is enabling us to reach the highest standards of port safety. The project was completed on budget and ahead of schedule. This has never been achieved in the port industry for a fully automated terminal. It is especially noteworthy when considering the unprecedented complexity of the civil works requirements, along with the level of pioneering automation governing the design.”
Kalmar’s OneTerminal deployment at VICT includes the Kalmar Automatic Stacking Crane (ASCs) system with 20 ASCs, 11 Kalmar AutoShuttles, Kalmar Automated Truck Handling, Kalmar Terminal Logistics System and the Navis N4 Terminal System. Additionally, Kalmar provided a range of project services required to deploy and support the solution.
“Since signing the contract with VICT in August 2014, we have worked hard to complete the project ahead of schedule and to the full satisfaction of the customer,” said Tero Kokko, Senior Vice President – Automation and Projects, Kalmar. “We were able to deliver our equipment months ahead of schedule. The software solution combining Kalmar TLS and Navis N4 Terminal System was pre-integrated and tested before the delivery, speeding up the deployment.”
Mark Welles, Vice President and General Manager – Asia Pacific, Navis, added: “Our team’s tireless efforts and knowledge have been instrumental in taking VICT from greenfield to fully automated and operational more quickly than expected. The N4 Terminal System will allow VICT to optimise operations, speed turnaround times and deliver a new level of unprecedented efficiency in key areas of the terminal.”

VTA announces 2017 AFIA winners

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) has announced the winners of the 2017 Australian Freight Industry Awards (AFIA), accolades that have recognised excellence in the freight and logistics industry for 28 years.
The ‘Personality of the Year’ Award was presented to Dr Hermione Parsons, Director fo the Centre for Supply Chain and Logistics at Deakin University, Rocke Brothers’ Matt Simmons took home the ‘Young Achiever of the Year’ and the ‘Waste & Recycling’ accolade went to FBT Transwest.
There were two winners for the ‘Application of Technology’ Award: Redstar Transport and Victoria International Container Terminal.
Metropolitan Express Transport Services was awarded for ‘Best Practice Safety’ and DP World Australia accepted the ‘Investment in People’ Award.
VTA CEO, Peter Anderson, announced the winners,  and VTA President, Cameron Dunn, and the Treasurer of Victoria, Tim Pallas, presented the awards.
“We once again had a very enthusiastic response to these awards from the industry, as evidenced by the dozens of applications judges assessed in determining the winners,” said Anderson. “Congratulations to all the winners and finalists on their tremendous achievements, and for working to continually improve the standards of our industry which helps to make it safer and more productive.”
Addressing his first AFIA presentation as President of the VTA, Dunn said that it has been a challenging year for freight operators, and that the VTA has been working hard to obtain meaningful outcomes for members. “As an industry association, we exist to service the needs of our members, and of course advocate for the best interests of the industry,” he said. “The VTA is pursuing many endeavours to improve and enhance economic, regulatory and other conditions for operators, and I would like to congratulate the VTA secretariat for their achievements, in what has been a challenging year.
“As operators, we are well-aware of the pressures we face from rising costs and smaller margins. The VTA has been strongly advocating for conditions that help to ease these pressures, and give operators every chance of success.
“On behalf of the Executive Council of the VTA, congratulations to all the winners, and thanks to every organisation that submitted a nomination.”
(L–R: VTA CEO Peter Anderson, Treasurer of Victoria Tim Pallas, Dr Hermione Parsons and VTA President Cameron Dunn)

TCA chief to talk tech at VTA conference

The Victorian Transport Association (VTA) has revealed that the CEO of Transport Certification Australia (TCA), Chris Koniditsiotis, will headline a session focusing on technology on day one of the annual VTA State Conference, to take place in Lorne from 4–6 June.
The full program is to be released later this week.
The TCA is the Australian government body responsible for providing advice, accreditation and administration services for public purpose initiatives involving the use of telematics and related intelligent technologies. It has been in the news recently after releasing a new specification to promote the interconnectivity of telematics.
“Chris and the TCA have been great supporters of the VTA and, at a time when operators are so regularly introduced to new technology, it will be great to have an update from the peak body charged with providing advice, accreditation and administrative services in relation to the deployment of telematics and related technology,” said VTA CEO Peter Anderson.
“Technology can dramatically improve productivity for operators, but naturally that comes at a cost. Operators must understand the benefits that technology investments can have for their bottom-line, and the technology session will cover the pace and benefits of recent developments, as well as advice for landing on the right transport technology strategy.”
The session will also feature a panel discussion with technology companies Trimble, FleetEffect, Seeing Machines and In-Vehicle Camera Systems, followed by an update from Victoria International Container Terminal (VICT) on the recent commencement of its new fully-automated terminal at Webb Dock.
“With so much technology in the marketplace, operators can easily be forgiven for putting technology in the ‘too hard’ basket, however the mix of conference speakers we’ve assembled to address delegates on this important part of transport will no doubt help operators understand why they need to invest in technology to be competitive and productive,” Anderson said.

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