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Presents the ACCC’s monitoring results and observations about the role of competition in Australian container stevedoring.

Key messages
There is now greater competition in container stevedoring

Increased competition has delivered benefits to users of stevedoring services and the wider Australian community in 2013–14.

  • Productivity has improved, average prices have fallen and there has been considerable investment in container terminals.
  • Greater competition is delivering benefits to users of stevedoring services, shipping lines, which should flow to consumers and Australian exporters by way of cheaper imports and lower costs.

These improvements build on significant historical achievements in industry performance since the waterfront reforms of 1998.

However, there are some risks to continued positive performance

There exist, however, some risks to the industry’s performance – in particular, the impact of labour outcomes and port privatisations on container stevedoring performance in the future.

Impact of labour outcomes - Enterprise bargaining agreements (EBAs) between the stevedores and their workforces are being renegotiated. The ACCC considers that EBAs provide valuable opportunities to provide incentives for further productivity gains in Australian stevedoring. It is important that the gains from enhanced competition and increased capacity in Australian stevedoring are not limited by such agreements.

Impact of port privatisations – The sales of leases to operate ports provide a timely reminder to governments of the principles for privatisations set out in national competition policy. Importantly, the structure of such sales should have regard to promoting competition, and governments should consider the need for economic regulation of monopoly assets. There is significant concern that the sales of ports, if not properly managed, could lead to greater costs for container stevedores and other port users, and ultimately for consumers and exporters.

And there are opportunities to improve landside connections to container ports

As freight flows are anticipated to double by 2030, opportunities to improve landside connections to container ports must be explored. Tools are available to governments and industry. These tools include road reform, using price signals to allocate access to scarce facilities such as container terminals, and industry-led initiatives to address bottlenecks and improve the efficiency of container supply chains.

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