Prime Mover Magazine

VTA advocates for landside freight carriers

Landside operators carrying freight at the Port of Melbourne will have greater transparency, fairness and certainty regarding charges and terminal access fees levied by stevedores at the Port of Melbourne due to the Victorian Transport Association's advocacy.

The measures, which include the establishment of a Voluntary Port of Melbourne Performance Model (VPPM) and a Draft Protocol governing how stevedores levy fees and charges, were outlined to the Association in a recent letter from Victorian Ports and Freight Minister, Melissa Horne.

The letter outlined that the Victorian Government would be developing the VPPM to address costs in the sector through improved pricing transparency and access co-ordination. The model will establish clearer protocols regarding the: notification of price increases and new landside charges, process by which government and industry are advised of these increases, provision of information justifying new or higher prices and the timing of price changes.

The draft protocol stipulates how operators could be notified about landside pricing and charges, and makes 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 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.

VTA CEO, Peter Anderson, said the significance of the Draft Protocol and what it means for landside operators should not be understated.

“The Protocol 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 fair and reasonable notice of increases being passed through the supply chain,” said Anderson.

“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," he said.

Anderson said the VTA has long 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 submissions to those tasked with carrying out this review it called for fairness and greater transparency in the way that charges are levied against landside operators,” he said.

“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 Local Access. The strategy has been developed to ensure that all landside port-related stakeholders are dealt with fairly and openly and we are pleased to see this in 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 grows in its productivity and efficiency and remains the preferred destination for in- and out-bound freight."

At the request of the Minister, the VTA 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.

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