Customs Brokers Join Infrastructure Cost Backlash



‘Land based’ charges are squeezing the smaller players, industry organisation says

Customs Brokers join infrastructure cost backlash
Increasing "land based" charges have raised the ire of the Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia


Another industry organisation is raising its voice about the issue of infrastructure surcharges, which it says is creating a series of challenges for its members.

The Customs Brokers and Forwarders Council of Australia (CBFCA) says the domestic cost components of Australia’s international trade have been rising in recent months due to what it says are "third party generated issues."

"In most cases, the issues have been caused by either increases in ‘land based’ pricing charges that have been masked as cost recovery processes or by service interface changes designed to suit other industry third parties," the CBFCA says.

CBFCA says these costs are being passed on from the major players, such as shipping lines or stevedoring companies, through to smaller participants – who are forced to either absorb these costs or pass them on to their own customers.

CBFCA commercial manager Scott Carson tells ATN that his organisation was now in regular contact with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) and other relevant bodies on the issue.

"There is no movement by the stevedores or the shipping lines to provide any form of concessions, or enter into negotiations or be transparent," Carson says.

Specifically, the CBFCA is concerned about stevedores increasing their infrastructure levy charges and applying them to all full container movements through the two main stevedore terminals, particularly in the light of recent cost increase announcements.

Shipping line options to have empty containers dehired to stevedore terminals while retaining the right to have the containers dehired to nominated container parks and the introduction of international terminal fees at Qube’s container freight facilities were also of concern, the group says.

Carson says the CBFCA would like to encourage a wide industry discussion of the issue, but concedes that it is difficult.

"We have got a number of strategic steps that we will now take if there is no voluntary participation in discussions," he says.

"Our operational strategy is to take a much sharper view to protecting our members’ interests, and if we get rejections we will meet with the respective parties and see if we can revert to another strategy."

The announcement comes after the Container Transport Alliance Australia (CTAA) and the Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA) criticised Patrick Stevedore’s decision to increase infrastructure charges earlier this month.

Carson says the CBFCA agreed with the organisations "in a number of ways."

"The more there is smoke the more it becomes factual that there is fire. We wanted to beat the drum and be brave about it – and we will cop some pressure over this but that’s just the way it is," he says.