27/11/2007 - 22:00

Bottlenecks expected at Freo

27/11/2007 - 22:00

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Some operators at Fremantle Port say the facility is just a few weeks away from a freight deadlock similar to last year’s Christmas period, despite efforts by the Port Authority and Sea Freight Council to engage stakeholders.

Bottlenecks expected at Freo

Some operators at Fremantle Port say the facility is just a few weeks away from a freight deadlock similar to last year’s Christmas period, despite efforts by the Port Authority and Sea Freight Council to engage stakeholders.

During the Christmas and new year period of 2006-07, the volume of trade going through the port increased by 20 per cent and led to major bottlenecks.

In an effort to prevent congestion this year, the port authority and Sea Freight Council have held workshops with importers, stevedores and trucking companies to improve traffic flow.

Despite this, according to some stakeholders, the situation has failed to improve.

Transport Forum WA Inc chief executive officer Ian King said congestion at the port during the Christmas period was shaping up to be worse than last year, mainly due to the reluctance of container park operators to extend their opening hours.

“Everyone is trying to work for the same end and everyone is on board except the container parks,” he said.

While stevedoring companies have agreed to close for just three days over the Christmas and new year period, container parks will be closed for six of the nine days.

Mr King said that, with about 15,000 containers due to be delivered between December 13 and January 2, the port was facing a massive gridlock.

He said the trucking companies bore much of the costs associated with delays at the port, both through fees incurred when containers were returned late and wages paid to truck drivers who spent much of their time in a queue.

“If you can’t take the containers back, then you shouldn’t be charged,” Mr King said.

One trucking coordinator said shipping companies were making a significant amount of money due to the inability of trucking companies to deliver their containers on time.

“The port seems to be working really hard on the issue, creating extra shifts within the peak period,” he said. “But we need extended hours from the shipping companies because that spreads the transport load out.”

Jayde Transport owner Harvey Mack said his company was still trying to negotiate with its customers to resolve more than $100,000 worth of fines incurred last Christmas.

Mr Mack said he had turned work away this year in order to avoid a similar situation as last year.

Department of Planning and Infrastructure director general Eric Lumsden, who is also acting chairman of the Sea Freight Council of WA, said the overall logistics chain was being affected by a few key groups, such as the container park operators.

Fremantle Ports chief executive Kerry Sanderson told WA Business News she was pleased with the level of cooperation among port users, although further co-ordination between members of the logistics chain was required.

Ms Sanderson said she remained hopeful that container park operators would agree to extend their hours.

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