30/10/2007 - 22:00

Trade spike warning from port

30/10/2007 - 22:00


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Business operators using Fremantle Port are being urged to start planning for the expected spike in activity over the Christmas period to ensure the logistics chain can cope.

Business operators using Fremantle Port are being urged to start planning for the expected spike in activity over the Christmas period to ensure the logistics chain can cope.

Last year’s 20 per cent increase in cargo movement from mid-December caused huge congestion problems, resulting in storage and detention fines for importers.

During the past few months, the West Australian Port Operations Task Force, WA Sea Freight Council, and Fremantle Ports have held workshops to improve awareness of the issue and find improvements in the logistics chain.

Several agencies are concerned that importers are not adhering to timelines set by port operators including customs, quarantine, cargo terminal operators and shipping lines.

This is causing delays in the reporting, clearance, collection and ‘dehire’ of containers.

Part of the problem is that sections of the logistics chain work varying hours, from importers (working about eight hours a day) to cargo terminal operators (working 16 hours a day).

The mismatch of hours results in containers being moved to holding sites overnight and extra handling costs for importers.

In an effort to address the problem, Chamber of Commerce and Industry WA’s international trade centre has issued a statement urging importers to maintain regular communication with their customs brokers and freight forwarders.

The statement outlines a timetable for importers to achieve optimum functioning at the port.

It requests that container and vessel information be provided to road transport operators three days before cargo arrives, to allow time to book slots with cargo terminal operators.

Importers are permitted three days to collect cargo, after which storage charges are applied.

As it is not possible for all containers to be collected within normal trading hours (6am to 5pm), companies are encouraged to make arrangements to pick up cargo or accept extra costs for storing containers.

Importers are allowed, on average, 10 days to unpack and return empty containers, after which time detention charges are applied.

Transport operators require 48 hours’ notice to collect empty containers, and up to 96 hours in peak periods.

Customs Brokers & Forwarders Council of Australia Inc WA regional co-ordinator, John Park, said the number of containers being processed at Fremantle Port had doubled during the past 15 years, but the number of days open to importers to collect them had reduced.

“There is pressure on for importers to get containers off the wharf, but with less time to access them,” he said.

“If we have the same sort of spike that we had last year, we’ll have a real issue.”

Fremantle Port has struggled to cope with major increases in imports this year across a range of products, including motor vehicles (up 30 per cent), steel (up 17 per cent), heavy vehicles (up 46 per cent) and other transport equipment (up 20 per cent).

Container trade has also grown, up 13 per cent last financial year.

In addition, the volume of containers moving through the port is increasing at about 17 per cent each month, causing a shortage of space on the wharf and pressure on equipment.


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