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Empty Container Congestion in Melbourne – Added Delays & Costs

In Operations Posted February 2, 2021 at 6:29 pm
By Peter Gulabovski

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Surging containerised import volumes, coupled with insufficient empty container evacuations, means the build-up of
empty container congestion has reached critical levels in Melbourne. Importers, exporters, freight forwarders, and cartage companies are feeling the effects
of this never-before-seen congestion.  The CTAA explained the situation in a media release extracted below.

Empty container park congestion is causing delays in import container de-hires, difficulties in accessing export
empties, redirections, and truck queuing.  This all adds up to increased landside logistics costs.

The build-up of empty containers involves most major shipping lines.

Maersk / Hamburg Sud

Maersk / Hamburg Sud’s major empty container park providers have reached capacity, including in an emergency
“spill-over” yard in Yarraville. This has led Maersk to redirect 40’ empty containers to Lawson Empty Container Park
in Somerton in Melbourne’s outer north.

For container transport operators based in Melbourne’s west, the longer travel time to and from Somerton is a
significant concern. Current major road works in Melbourne combined with the longer distances, add up to extra
operational costs. This also ties up valuable truck and trailing equipment making them unavailable for customer
deliveries.

CTAA Director, Neil Chambers observed that “the alternative of having no de-hire option for Maersk / Hamburg Sud
empties is less palatable as containers would be stockpiling even more quickly in transport operators’ yards. This
is causing significant additional transport, rehandling and administration costs. CTAA calls on Maersk / Hamburg Sud
to redouble their efforts to repatriate more empties away from Melbourne, and to provide alternative de-hire options
to alleviate empty container handling costs and delays.”

Pleasingly, ACFS Webb Dock has announced that it will now accommodate Maersk 40’ High Cube (HC) units marked for
PMC. However, current Maersk schedules and anticipated empty exports won’t have a significant impact on reducing the
build-up in the short term. So, empty congestion management will be with us for some time yet regrettably,
bringing with it added costs and delays.

COSCO / China Shipping

The delays experienced in managing COSCO / import from China to Australia empties
are also of concern.  COSCO’s wholly-owned empty container park, Oceania Container Services (OCS) is heavily
congested, and there is limited truck arrival capacity. Before Christmas, COSCO redirected some empty equipment
types to Allied Container Services in Tottenham. However, a large influx soon overwhelmed Allied capacity and the
alternative is now not available.

The lack of timely arrival slots at ECPs means that transport operators fight a losing battle to meet de-hire
timeframes to avoid container detention fees.

The supply chains bear the burden.

Everyone should understand that when an ECP orders a redirection on a container for de-hire from one facility to
another, there is a delay of at least 24 hours. In that time, containers can breach the detention free time imposed
by the shipping line. In many instances, transport operators aren’t responsible for those delays, but the shipping
line’s container detention bill is rendered to them regardless.  The increase in empty container congestion has
coincided with increased container detention fee demands from shipping lines. Due to this transport operators are
tightening their policies on container detention liability.

Source: CTAA

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