The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has announced that it will not oppose the proposed acquisition by Melbourne International RoRo & Auto Terminal (MIRRAT) of a long-term lease to operate the Webb Dock West automotive terminal at the Port of Melbourne and currently under the control of the Port of Melbourne Corporation, after accepting a court-enforceable undertaking.
The undertaking seeks to address the ACCC’s competition concerns should MIRRAT be successful in its bid to redevelop the automotive terminal at Webb Dock West, and operate the terminal on an open access basis until 30 June 2040
MIRRAT’s ultimate parent company Wallenius Wilhelmsen Logistics AS (WWL) operates an ocean shipping business in competition with other terminal users at the Port of Melbourne.
The ACCC was concerned that MIRRAT could use its position as a vertically integrated operator of the sole automotive terminal at the Port of Melbourne to discriminate against rival automotive shipping lines and other terminal users that MIRRAT may compete with in future, including stevedores and PDI facility operators.
“An important feature of the undertaking is the ability for the ACCC to publicly review it two years after commencement and every five years thereafter,” ACCC Chairman Rod Sims said.
“In this review, the ACCC can identify any changes that need to be made to ensure that the undertaking continues to address competition concerns throughout its 22-year term.”
“The review process may take into account submissions from interested parties and the findings and recommendations from the independent auditor, who will be monitoring MIRRAT’s compliance with the undertaking,” Mr Sims said.
The ACCC had been concerned that in the absence of the undertaking, MIRRAT could provide preferential treatment to WWL, to the detriment of other shipping companies, including through shipping schedules, berthing allocations and the provision of ancillary services.
In addition, the ACCC was concerned that MIRRAT could begin supplying other terminal services and discriminate against competitors in these other downstream markets and potentially use its ability to raise the cost to its rivals of terminal access to disadvantage its rivals, making it more difficult for them to compete in the supply of shipping and other terminal services.
To address these concerns, the undertaking requires that:
- MIRRAT must comply with open access conditions and berthing allocation rules in its operation of the terminal;
- MIRRAT ring fence the confidential information of terminal users to ensure that confidential information is not disclosed to unauthorised personnel;
- provides mechanisms for independent resolution of price and non-price related disputes if terminal users consider they have been discriminated against or have other concerns relating to the supply of terminal services by MIRRAT;
- enables terminal users to request that the ACCC-approved independent auditor conducts an audit check of MIRRAT’s compliance with the undertaking at any time if the terminal user is concerned that MIRRAT has breached its undertaking obligations.
Further information is available at http://registers.accc.gov.au/content/index.phtml/itemId/1160755/fromItemId/751046
A Public Competition Assessment will be issued by the ACCC in due course.