The ACCC provides information to the government and the community on the performance of Australia’s container stevedoring industry. We also have responsibility for investigating complaints in relation to international liner cargo shipping conference agreements.
Part VIIA of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 (the Act) sets out the ACCC’s functions in relation to price inquiries, price notifications and price monitoring.
Container stevedoring monitoring
The ACCC currently has one main role under Part VIIA of the Act in relation to waterfront and shipping. The role is to monitor prices, costs and profits of container terminal operator companies at the ports of Adelaide, Brisbane, Burnie, Fremantle, Melbourne and Sydney.
Investigations into international liner cargo shipping conference agreements
Part X of the Act relates specifically to international liner cargo shipping. It deals with limited exemptions from certain provisions in Part IV of the Act for international liner cargo shipping conferences.
A conference is an unincorporated association of two or more ocean carriers carrying on a business which includes the provision of liner cargo shipping services.
Exemptions apply to conference agreements registered with the Registrar of Liner Shipping at the Department of Infrastructure and Transport.
The exemptions relate to conduct that may otherwise breach sections 45 and 47 of the Act relating to anti-competitive agreements. This allows international liner cargo operators to agree on prices, capacity or schedules.
The ACCC’s role under the Act is to investigate complaints from parties adversely affected by shipping conference agreements and by the conduct of conference lines and non-conference lines having substantial market power. The ACCC can also initiate an investigation. The ACCC can recommend that the Minister deregister an agreement.
Information relating to past investigations by the ACCC under Part X is held on the public register:
See: Investigations register (International liner shipping) (s. 10.13)
The ACCC’s prices surveillance and monitoring work was previously performed under the Prices Surveillance Act 1983 but this was repealed on 1 March 2004.
In relation to waterfront and shipping, the ACCC’s past work under Part VIIA of the Act has included harbour towage—assessing price notifications from harbour towage companies.
In 2002, the Productivity Commission (PC) conducted an inquiry into the regulation of harbour towage services. Among the report’s recommendations, the PC recommended that the declaration of harbour towage services should not be renewed upon expiry. The Government responded to the PC report in March 2003 and accepted the recommendations.
Harbour towage companies have not been declared since September 2002. Previously, the ACCC used to assess price notifications from Adsteam Marine Ltd, a harbour towage operator previously declared under Part VIIA of the Trade Practices Act 1974 (renamed the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 from 1 January 2011).
Information relating to historical price notifications under Part VIIA is held on the public register:
See: Price notifications register