Greater transparency and fairness for wharf carriers
The Victorian Transport Association has been a strong and vocal advocate for the introduction of tighter regulatory controls and greater oversight of fees and charges levied against landside freight operators at the Port of Melbourne.
We were an active participant in the recent Port Pricing and Access Review led by Deloitte on behalf of the Victorian Government, and in our submissions to those tasked with carrying out this review we called for fairness and greater transparency in the way that charges are levied against landside operators.
Indeed, regular readers of this column would be familiar with the laser-like focus the VTA has had on improving commercial conditions for Port of Melbourne wharf carriers in the interests of keeping Melbourne the nation’s premier destination for freight.
As a result of VTA-led advocacy on behalf of the transport industry, we were thrilled that the Victorian Government has indicated it will be developing a Voluntary Port of Melbourne Performance Model (VPPM) to address costs in the sector through improved pricing transparency and access co-ordination.
Most importantly for wharf carriers, the model will include a draft protocol stipulating how operators could be notified about landside pricing and charges, making clear that:
Stevedore terminal access charges will only be changed once per annum.
Stevedores must issue a notice of intention to the Secretary, Department of Transport and Industry 90 days prior to the proposed date of the increase of an existing charge or introduction of a new charge.
The notice of intention to change prices or introduce a new charge to the Department of Transport must be accompanied by detailed reasons for the increase or introduction of a new charge, including all supporting information or data.
The notice of intention to change prices or introduce a new charge to Industry must outline in sufficient detail the rationale for the price increase or introduction of a new charge.
Stevedores will receive feedback from Department of Transport and Industry on the proposed increase or introduction of a new charge.
Stevedores must issue a final notice of changed prices 60 days prior to the date of the proposed increase.
The final notice should incorporate a statement of engagement summarising issues raised by affected stakeholders and the response of the terminal operator.
The significance of this draft protocol and what it means for landside operators should not be understated.
It will provide the transparency, fairness and due process the VTA has long advocated for and will give operators greater time and flexibility to incorporate the impact of cost increases into their own pricing models, and to provide their customers reasonable notice of increases being passed through the supply chain.
Most importantly, it will require stevedores to provide a rationale for increases to fees and charges, and regulate the frequency that prices can be adjusted, providing certainty to landside operators and an end to the days of excessive price rises at the ports.
The VTA has long been a strong advocate for the introduction of tighter regulatory controls oversight of fees and charges levied against landside freight operators.
We were an active participant in the recent Port Pricing and Access Review led by Deloitte on behalf of the Victorian Government, and in our submissions we called for fairness and transparency in how charges are levied against landside operators. Our Landside Improvement Strategy outlined common-sense recommendations and solutions, with some of the more than twelve issues covered including Fees and Penalties, Vessel ‘bunching’ and we are pleased to see much of this reflected in the draft protocol outlined by Minister Horne.
The VTA would like to recognise the Victorian Government and the Minister for listening and acting on the concerns expressed by the VTA and taking steps to ensure the Port of Melbourne remains the preferred destination for in- and out-bound freight.
At the request of the Minister, we will be providing feedback on the draft protocol for notification of landside operator price increases which, together with feedback from other industry stakeholders, will help enable the commencement of a 12-month trial of the VPPM from January 2021.