Stevedores warned of duopoly

The Port of Melbourne.

The Port of Melbourne…warned.

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has warned a lack of competition in the stevedoring sector would get in the way of future growth.

According to the ACCC’s latest annual monitoring report of container stevedoring, throughput volumes recorded an increase of 10.7 per cent in 2007-08, with productivity levels jumping almost 47 per cent over the last decade.

ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel said the report showed decade-old waterfront reforms have significantly boosted the stevedoring sector, but a lack of competition in the industry was worrying. 

“During this time, demand for stevedoring services has doubled. The cost of using stevedoring services has fallen in real terms.

“In turn, the stevedoring businesses have become more productive and profitable, even during a period when significant expenditure on assets was made,” Mr Samuel said.

“However, as the ACCC has noted in previous reports, questions remain about the extent to which the stevedores actually compete to win each other’s business. This is important when we look forward ten years and consider the high rates of demand that are forecast to continue.”

Mr Samuel said while the ports of Sydney and Brisbane were well progressed in testing the market for new competitors, the Port of Melbourne was lagging behind with a third container terminal not set to open until 2017.

He said the delayed development at Australia’s largest port would make its two incumbents, Patrick and DP World, settle for the convenience of the current duopoly.

“Any unnecessary delays in establishing additional container terminal facilities could result in lost opportunities for greater competition.

“More intense levels of competition can not only improve efficiency but may also result in a greater share of the benefits being passed on to users and the wider community that reply on the movement of goods into and out of Australian ports,” he said.

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