Plans to suspend vessel operations will see the container facility effectively closed today (Wednesday) for a 24-hour period in an attempt to clear the backlog that has built up over the last ten days as truck driver experienced long delays when trying to load containers.
It is understood that manual processes have been put in place to temporarily replace the TOS to enable the loading of containers onto road and rail transport.
This latest move comes after the unexpected departure of James Mather, the DP World terminal director and general manager, who left his post last week, although the company said Mather’s departure was not related to the delays in the port.
In a statement, also issued last week, Law Russell, CEO of Shipping Australia, said ship operators were “fed up with congestion at Sydney container terminal”.
“This week has seen serious delays again being experienced at DP World following the introduction of a new IT system which appears not to have been trialled in terms of parallel testing. Questions must be raised why would a new computer system be introduced during the peak season for containers being imported through Sydney?” he said.
“More importantly this is the final straw in a long period of serious delays being experienced by our members at DP World container terminal at Port Botany.”
Russell explained that ship operators are incurring “massive fuel bills” because of the need to speed up vessels to return them to their original sailing schedule and to avoid a snowballing effect of delays around the Australian coast and overseas ports.
“There are many ramifications including the need to drop port calls in order to resume normal sailing schedules and extra costs such as those arising from missing canal bookings,” he said.
He went on to say, “The extra fuel costs are simply not sustainable and the integrity of members’ services are being undermined much to the frustration and anger of all players in the supply chain”.
Russell added that parties to individual agreements are assembling a full record of the extent and cost impact of the delays suffered and are considering measures to compensate for the damages incurred.
“One measure is the application of a congestion surcharge which, in my view, will undermine the reputation of Sydney ports internationally,” he suggested.
“Shipping Australia’s members are certainly willing to work with all stakeholders in trying to resolve a problem that has now been going on for far too long but our ability to assist appears to be fairly limited in the current circumstances” he said.
Ironically it would seem that Botany’s recent success has added to its problems, which has seen record trade growth at the facility this year, due largely to growing China-Australia trade, which represents over 60% of all volume into and out of the port.