The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission has noted encouraging signs of growing opportunities for new entry in the larger Australian container ports in its eleventh annual monitoring report on container stevedoring issued today.
The ACCC monitors prices, costs and profits of container terminal operators at the largest container ports—Brisbane, Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney. Container stevedoring at these ports is provided by two firms —Patrick and DP World. The ACCC also monitors two, single operator container terminals at the smaller ports of Adelaide and Burnie. Container stevedoring involves the lifting of cargo in shipping containers on and off ships.
"The ACCC's report shows that performance of the stevedores was affected in 2008–09 by the global economic slowdown," ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said today. "The number of containers handled fell in 2008–09 which impacted the stevedores' profits.
"However, even during these tough economic times, the stevedores were able to maintain prices and achieve rates of returns of close to 18 per cent. By comparison, the average return on assets for the ASX200 companies was nine per cent. That the stevedores could achieve such results reinforces the ACCC's concerns about the degree of competition in the industry. It seems that the stevedores are not forced to compete for business.
"As the economy recovers and demand for stevedoring services increases, decisions by state governments and port managers about competition in the larger ports become crucial. We have seen in Brisbane and Sydney that there are other stevedores willing to take up the opportunity to compete against the Patrick-DP World duopoly when given the chance. Melbourne, Australia's largest container port, is reportedly considering whether to bring forward a new terminal development to cope with expected future growth. These opportunities for new entry provide a real chance, now more than ever before, to facilitate more competition in Australian stevedoring."
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