Shipping lines calling at Australia are becoming “more aggressive” over container detention, adding to supply chain costs from landside congestion and rising port fees.

According to the Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA), there has been little improvement to the country’s container logistics congestion this year.

The CTAA said: “For the past few years, and again currently, the landside sector is facing chronic gate-in and overall capacity constraints at some empty-container parks (ECPs) in some ports, notably Melbourne and Sydney, and Brisbane has not been immune, due to recent weather events and disruptions.”

The ECP congestion is causing delays of three-to-five days, CTAA noted, claiming the situation is “made worse when shipping lines do not offer an alternative facility.”

It added: “A major concern is that shipping lines can benefit financially from their own operational inefficiencies by levying high container detention fees on importers for late return of the equipment, despite a contributing factor being the lack of capacity, leading to containers not being able to be de-hired within the container detention free-time.”

Indeed, David Aherne, MD and founder of Across the Ocean Shipping, told The Loadstar: “Many shipping lines are becoming more aggressive with container detention, which is leading to an increase in costs for importers.

“Some carriers are reducing container free-time from 10 days to seven. This is making it difficult for importers to empty containers and de-hire in the allocated timeframe. And some de-hire parks are at full capacity, yet are seemingly refusing to return empty containers. This is resulting in additional charges for importers due to the additional yard fees.”

However, Mr Aherne added, shipping lines were still billing importers for detention, despite having nowhere to de-hire the empty containers.

“These shipping lines appear unforgiving of a situation they have ultimately played a part in, with their attitudes shifting greatly in the past 12-18 months,” he said. “As freight forwarders, we are constantly fighting for our clients to be treated fairly by these multinational carriers.”

Another thorn in the side of shippers and transport operators is the non-stop increase in terminal access fees, also known and infrastructure surcharges, levied by Australia’s container terminal operators.

For example, according to the CTAA, Melbourne’s Victoria International Container Terminal is the latest to announce an above-inflation increase of 13.8% to its landside infrastructure surcharge, setting it at A$161.35 (US$112.85) per full container from 1 July.

Mr Aherne added. “Australia already has some of the most uncompetitive port charges across the globe, which demonstrates a disparity between other ports in the western world.

“These costs are having an impact on the pockets of importers and small businesses throughout the nation, and will likely lead to an increase in inflation.”

Source : The Loadstar