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Published: 3 Mar 2023
MARITIME UNION OF AUSTRALIA
Australian terminal operator suffers catastrophic collapse in container volumes
3 March 2023
International shipping companies’ recent decision to schedule a massive volume of blank sailings to Australia will have a particular impact on Australia’s third largest shipping terminal operator.
This will throw the waterfront industry into disarray and cause significant economic hardship for hundreds of Australian workers, the Maritime Union of Australia has warned, with the latest example of shipping company cartel behaviour bolstering the case for government intervention into Australian supply chain security.
One of Australia’s three terminal operators, Hutchison Ports, has advised the Union it expects the impact of the shipping companies’ massive withdrawal of sailings to its two terminals – in Sydney and Brisbane – will last four months. The huge reduction in volumes will drive potential job losses and necessitate significant wage reductions and hardship for entire workforce. Terminals operated by DP World in Fremantle, and Melbourne, and VICT in Melbourne, are also affected.
“This is a prime example of persistent market failure in Australia’s supply chains, with Australian workers once again bearing the brunt of international cartel conduct on our coast and on our waterfront,” said Paddy Crumlin, the MUA’s National Secretary and a member of the Australian Federal Government’s Strategic Fleet Shipping Taskforce.
“During COVID, this cartel behaviour took the form of rampant price gouging and scheduling and vessel allocation manipulations that created a false scarcity amidst the global pandemic. Now, they’re slashing sailings and leaving a massive vacuum behind to exert pressure once again on Australia’s supply chains and working people.” Mr Crumlin added.
The Maritime Union of Australia has repeatedly drawn the attention of government, industry, small business and the community to the economic, social and sovereign risks associated with international shipping companies’ systematic abuse of our position at the far end of global supply chains.
Independent economic advisory bodies like the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Productivity Commission have repeatedly failed to take seriously these risks or incorporate measures to mitigate them in their advisories to government.
“The recent Productivity Commission inquiry into the Australian maritime logistics revealed yet again the biases of this supposedly independent organisation. Its refusal to make recommendations in line with our repeated warnings about Australian supply chain security has once again revealed it to be an organisation that is unfit for purpose,” Mr Crumlin said.
The Union also wrote as recently as September 2022 to the ACCC raising these concerns, especially with Part X of the Competition and Consumer Act 2010 which permits cartel conduct in Australia by international shipping companies.
The MUA’s proposed legislative amendments would strengthen compliance with industry service standards and force international container shipping companies to meet community expectations for supply chain security and eliminate blatant profiteering.
The Union will work with Hutchison and all affected stevedoring operators to protect the job security of wharfies and manage the massive impact this scheduling gap will have on workers and their families.