Port Strategy A Vital Step Forward

The Transport Union Federation (MUA, TWU, RTBU) today welcomed the Gillard Government's National Port Strategy and said it will provide the framework and the vital direction Australia's Ports have long been crying out for. Together with the Government's proposed shipping reform, the successful adoption of the strategy will herald a new era for Australian ports and shipping

MUA National Secretary Paddy Crumlin, who is also President of the International Transport Workers' Federation, said MUA members had worked hard to ensure productivity at Australia's Ports is among the world's most competitive.

"Recent history has shown productivity at some of our ports has been severely hampered by limitations on our infrastructure, investment and by planning issues following over 10 years of policy negligence under the Howard Government," said Mr Crumlin.

"Queues, either by ships at sea or trucks and rail landside can have significant impact on the national economy - especially when those queues impact domestic and international trade freight and commodity supply chains. The policy clearly complements the Gillard shipping reform policy that focuses on building a more dynamic and sustainable domestic and international shipping industry for Australia's freight corridors and highways at sea.

"With demand on our Ports set to triple in by 2030, without a national, coordinated approach to our ports, shipping freight forwarding capacity, we will not be able to handle the growing demand. The economic impacts of worsening bottlenecks would be dire," said Mr Crumlin.

Transport Workers Union national secretary, Tony Sheldon, said an effective ports strategy will also hold stevedores accountable for the role they need to play in increasing efficiency at our ports.

"For example, we're currently seeing that poor planning from stevedores is leaving truck drivers stuck in line for hours, and economically forcing drivers to make up time and money in other ways.

"We have conducted surveys where drivers are telling us they are spending an average of 22 hours a week unpaid waiting in line to load and unload. Financially, they can be forced to make this up in other ways by driving harder or cutting corners with proper vehicle maintenance.

"In NSW, the government's Port Botany Landside Improvement Strategy will be implemented in early 2011. Part of this will see paid waiting times for truck drivers, with, stevedores will need to compensate trucking operators $25 for every 15 minute delay.

Paddy Crumlin said the Gillard Government ought to be commended for initiating this national coordinated approach to planning and development of Australia's Ports, a first for a major advanced economy.

"I think the strategy strikes the right balance with a national strategic approach that takes account of the different spatial scales - focusing on jurisdictions, regions and precincts," Mr Crumlin said.

Mr Nanva, RTBU, said the Gillard Government should not underestimate the challenge still before it.

"Although the need for this strategy is as clear as the nose on your face, getting it through COAG may be challenging. At a state level, the problem has been a lack of coordination and appetite for the reforms the strategy recommends. The strategy needs to be more explicit on the responsibilities placed on the State ports and freight forwarding planning bodies.

"With freight trains often facing frustrating delays because of the priority given to passenger trains and limited track capacity, it's never been more important to have this comprehensive plan," he said.

"This is clearly an instance where the federal government needs to show leadership on aspects of the ports strategy where it already has policy (or shared policy) responsibility. This includes workforce development, skills and training, infrastructure coordination and, of course, funding," said Mr Nanva.

Media contacts: Paddy Crumlin 0418 379 660;  Seth Tengate, TWU 0418 463 199, Bob Nanva Tel 0433 188 077