VTA steps up campaign for port action

VTA dismisses as “puerile” Shipping Australia's response to trucking delays at the Port of Melbourne

January 28, 2010

Victoria’s peak trucking lobby is increasing pressure on Shipping Australia to help resolve crippling delays at the Port of Melbourne, accusing the group of being "puerile".

Following calls for shipping lines to be held accountable for keeping drivers in queue for more than two hours, the Victorian Transport Association (VTA) wants a face-to-face meeting with Shipping Australia.

Although Shipping Australia CEO Llew Russell has threatened to walk away from talks, VTA CEO Phil Lovel says working together can help fix a litany of problems.

"The fact of the matter is that there is so much that could be achieved to improve the operational performance of empty container parks through mutual dialogue," he says.

"This includes analysing overall operational capacity, initiatives to lengthen the opening hours of empty parks and better exchange of electronic information to improve visibility of empty container movements and park performance."

The VTA last week accused shipping lines of not repatriating empty containers overseas, equipment failures and stagnating operational flows at empty parks.

It also suggested importers and transport service providers take shipping lines to court if they are charged with container detention fees, prompting Russell to say there will be no talks while potential legal action looms.

The VTA wants an assurance that operators will not be slugged with detention fees if congestion and delays restrict their ability to return containers on time, and Lovel says Russell’s response to the issue is "puerile and lacking logic".

"Shipping Australia Limited has a reputation of simply trying to protect the status-quo for its members, and Mr Russell no doubt thinks it is convenient to use this lame excuse not to engage," he says.

Lovel says the issue of detention charges is a separate matter from fixing the problems at the port.

He says the invitation remains open for Shipping Australia to join the VTA’s members when they meet the Port of Melbourne Corporation and the Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia on March 10.

"Lets see if the shipping lines will act maturely or not. We call on the lines not to pass up this opportunity, irrespective of possible negative recommendations from SAL [Shipping Australia Limited]," Lovel says.

The VTA is also planning to involve Victorian Minister for Roads and Ports Tim Pallas.

Lovel says the group is preparing a brief for Pallas to outline the issues and the trucking industry’s concerns.

Furthermore, the VTA is also writing to individual shipping lines asking what they are doing to improve performance at container parks.

VicRoads and the state’s police force may also soon be involved, with the VTA planning to speak to both agencies about truck delays.

The VTA last week called for container parks to be investigated for chain of responsibility breaches based on the time some truck drivers were queuing for containers.

The group says trucks trying to return containers to parks are being turned away, while redirections are increasing operator administration costs and causing delivery delays.

ATN has contacted Russell, who was unavailable for comment.

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