The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission today issued its eighth annual monitoring report covering prices, costs and profitability of container terminal operations in Australia's major ports for 2005-06.
The report shows that at Australia's largest container terminals, stevedoring unit revenues and costs both increased, while productivity fell. This contrasts with a pattern of declining real unit revenue and costs and increasing productivity that occurred in the late 1990's following waterfront reform.
Higher unit costs were mainly a result of higher equipment costs associated with higher fuel costs and costs associated with capital work programs. Information provided by the stevedores indicates that the industry is continuing to invest in new assets, which is expected to result in additional future terminal capacity.
As with 2004-05, higher revenues were derived from stevedoring and non-stevedoring activities. The core business of stevedoring—the loading and unloading of containers from vessels—attracted higher charges. Higher revenues were also derived from ancillary services, such as container storage.
"Australian stevedoring is now facing a number of challenges", ACCC Chairman, Mr Graeme Samuel, said today. "The important industry reforms undertaken in the late 1990's led to a period in which very strong growth in container volumes was handled and costs and prices, in real terms, fell. However, it appears that these gains are no longer being made. The growth in container volumes that is predicted to continue raises issues about how the necessary expansion in stevedoring capacity will be managed.
"The ACCC report notes that benefits of competition in stevedoring services should not be underestimated when decisions regarding approaches to capacity expansion are being made by port managers. It is significant that a number of port managers have current expansion plans that allow an opportunity for new entrants to become established. It also notes that the efficient management of the connection between terminal and land-based transport remains an ongoing challenge and may require a more proactive approach by port managers".
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