3 January 2014

Australian Customs & Border Protection Notice No. 2013/66 - Changes to the Import Processing Charge

ACBPS Notice No. 2013/66 refers to changes to the Import Processing Charge for imported goods with a consignment value of greater than AUD$10,000.00. You can read the full notice here.


16 December 2013

Know Before You Go - The Do’s & Don’ts this Holiday Season

Customs and Border Protection is reminding holiday-goers to learn the do’s and don’ts before travelling overseas during the Christmas and holiday period.

During 2012/13, Customs and Border Protection officers seized a range of prohibited goods in airports across Australia including:

  1. performance and image enhancing drugs;

  2. dangerous weapons such as firearms and knives; and

  3. goods that are legal in some countries, but prohibited in Australia, such as electric shock devices, knuckle dusters and BB guns.

“People may think that items such as laser pointers, flick knives, and shock devices make inexpensive novelty gifts, but they could end up costing you more than you bargained for,” Regional Director NSW, Tim Fitzgerald, said.

“While these goods may be legal in some countries, they are restricted to import under Australian law. If we catch you trying to bring goods into the country illegally, you could be charged or face serious fines.”

The easiest way for travellers to check what can and can’t be brought back into Australia, is to go online to and read the ‘Know Before You Go’ brochure.

The ‘Know Before You Go’ brochure is a guide for anyone planning to travel internationally over the summer, and covers:

  1. what goods are prohibited to bring back into Australia;

  2. how to declare;

  3. travelling with medication;

  4. duty and tax; and

  5. the Tourist Refund Scheme.

“So that your gifts make it home for Christmas, and to avoid unnecessary penalties, don’t waste your money – know the rules before you go overseas,” Officer Fitzgerald said.



12 December 2013

Road Connectivity is Key to NSW Freight Strategy

During her presentation, she discussed the freight strategy for New South Wales.

One of the activities being dealt with in that freight strategy, Ms Johnson reported, was “connectivity” i.e. the ability to connect freight-valuable precincts.

“The most import network efficiency [from a road point of view] is high mass limit. It doesn’t really matter what the vehicle looks like – it doesn’t really matter if it is a B-double or a road train or anything else.

“It is about high mass limits for us and that’s the sort of work we are trying to deal with,” she said.

Ms Johnson talked-of a ‘freight-valuable precinct’ and the significant issue of a lack of connectivity with ‘local roads’.

“Local councils don’t always have the funding or the wherewithal to be able to provide good connectivity.

Bridges are also an issue for local roads and she noted that one of the programs signed up to by the NSW government was ‘Bridges for the Bush’.

“But there are lots of other reasons why networks don’t connect,” she added.

“They don’t connect because of curfews overnight or they don’t connect because they don’t have proper route assessments or bridges and other pieces of infrastructure.

“What we are doing now is looking at how we can actually get that connectivity happening.”

Ms Johnson said Transport NSW was seeking “a bundle of money” – $100m from the Commonwealth government and $100m from the state government and “we’d like to spin that out through contributions from the private sector” and also with contributions from local councils.

“We’d like to put that money into connectivity.... we have a list of probably 100 different projects which would deliver considerable economic value, in the regions particularly.”

The Grain Harvest Management Scheme is another key project.

“What we are trying to do this year is work with local councils, particularly in the regions... to deliver, for the period of the harvest, which is essentially three-months, really to give a concession so that people can get their product off the field and do it in a timely and efficient way.”

Ideally, there should be one grain handling system for the entire east coast of Australia, she argued.

“I should say, when it comes to grain harvest, we want one system on the east coast.

“We want people to be able to cross borders and to have one system... it’s not perfect but we would like to head in that direction.”

A large area of the state was now signed-up to the grain management scheme, she added.

Ms Johnson also talked of the challenges in handling growth and the increase in road freight.

There was a need to understand freight movements both in the present and in the future.

“So we have been developing a ‘Bureau of Freight Statistics’. It can provide this sort of information to us.”

Turning closer to home, she addressed the challenges involved with trucking containers in and out of Port Botany and the growth of road freight.

“The best way, I believe, of transiting a very heavily-built metropolitan area is on rail.

“I think probably most people would agree with that one.”

“Certainly 85% of all the containers... and it’s heavily weighted towards imports... need to be delivered within 45km of ports.

“To assist that, we need good intermodal terminals.”

Sustainability and working harmoniously with the community were essential, noting issues with rail transport, especially freight trains.

A key community issue is noise.

“Obviously the first place in starting to deal with noise is to deal with [it] at source.

“If you can deal with the noise on the locomotives and on the wagons that the locomotives are pulling, then you can actually reduce the number of homes that you have to treat, the number of noise walls you have to put up and so on.”

‘Lubrication’ is one of the techniques adopted to overcome noise.

“We’ve had some extremely good results and I’ve just had my team come back from Sweden, funded by the Acoustic Association of Australia, to go and speak at various events where they’ve been able to demonstrate some of the results that they’re getting here in NSW on noise.”



10 December 2013

Australia Signs Up to Global Trade Deal

Australia is one of 159 nations that have signed up to the World Trade Organization’s Bali trade reform package.

It is hoped that the implementation of the reforms will streamline trade through ports and through the customs processes of all the signatory states.

The trade facilitation decision (the first ever multilateral agreement negotiated in the WTO) is said to simplify customs procedures by reducing costs and improving speed and efficiency.

Objectives of the agreement – which will be legally binding – are: to speed up customs procedures; make trade easier, faster and cheaper; provide clarity, efficiency and transparency; reduce bureaucracy and corruption, and use technological advances.

It also has provisions on goods in transit, an issue particularly of interest to landlocked countries seeking to trade through ports in neighbouring countries.

The historic trade agreement will create more than 21m jobs, according to Australian trade and investment minister Andrew Robb.

"Despite some suggestions, the ministerial meeting [on December 7] was not about north-south differences.

"The overwhelming majority of WTO members wanted a result, and we got there," said Mr Robb.

"After 13 years of talks, the Bali outcome offers us a real opportunity to re-energise the WTO and get back to its core business of delivering trade liberalisation.

"The agreements adopted reaffirm the global commitment to eliminate agricultural export subsidies, address genuine food security needs through non-trade distorting policies, and to maximise export opportunities under tariff rate quotas," Mr Robb said.



8 August 2013

Reform Needed for Infrastructure Network

Bold reform is required in order for national infrastructure to keep pace with the freight task, Infrastructure Australia general manager policy John Austen says.


Mr Austen spoke at the Australian Grains Industry Conference 2013 recently.

“Recent advice to the council’s (Council of Australian Governments)... said we should undertake some fairly bold reforms to take advantage of the coming Asian century,” he told the conference.

“Basically those reforms are to get money into the right place so we can improve our productivity and competitiveness.”

Mr Austen also said there was a “to focus on exports”.

“In grains, I think the main interest is in ports and freight,” he said.

In both Australia and other countries, there was more friction between settlement, the environment and industrial activity.

“We can see that at the moment on the [Great] Barrier Reef,” he said.

“We are seeing evidence of climate and weather shifts and we are seeing stronger pressure on budgets.”

Long-term planning, especially in supply chains, should be a priority.

“Productivity and competitiveness... is necessary, but it probably isn’t sufficient to secure Australian supply chains.”

The Australian Grains Industry Conference was held at Crown Conference Centre, Melbourne, and attracted delegates from across Australia and overseas.



29 May 2013

Fog Shuts Down Port Botany Again

A second day of operations has been affected by thick fog causing Port Botany stevedores DP World and Patrick to halt operations on safety grounds.

A spokesperson for DP World Australia confirmed that terminal operations and port movements were impacted by thick fog in Port Botany this morning.

“All terminal operations ceased at 4am and resumed progressively from 8.15am. As a result, two vessels alongside and the arrival of a third have been impacted but DP World is confident of their timely departure."

Consequently all truck slots at 4am, 5am and 6am were cancelled.

Commenting on these cancellations, one freight forwarder executive said: “we’re not picking up anything that’s urgent, so we are lucky, this time.”

However, he pointed out that other logisticians would not be so lucky and that these delays would likely incur customer dissatisfaction, although also adding that importers do tend to be “understanding” when there are weather-driven delays.

“It creates quite a bottleneck,” he added, pointing out that it often causes a "domino effect" further along the supply chain, which incurs costs.

“You could have a bunch of guys on standby at a warehouse, and they’re standing around getting paid and then the container doesn’t turn up,” the executive said.

He also pointed out that the trucking companies will likely impose additional charges for futile trips, in the range of $80 to $120 an hour, and that these costs are often passed on to the ultimate importer.

Also commenting was Paul Zalai of the Freight and Trade Alliance.

"Some things such extreme weather conditions are simply out of our control and stevedores need to operate safely, especially when poor visibility is an issue," Mr Zalai said.

"This will no doubt have an impact on transport schedules and will adversely affect the trade sector but it remains reasonable for stevedores to call an “unforseen event” and exemption from PBIS penalties. We envisage that similar concessions will be applied to the transport sector should issues be out of their control impacting on their ability to make time slots."

Fog in Sydney is due to clear today, according to the Bureau of Meteorology, with a sunny afternoon and light winds forecast. Fog is forecast for tomorrow morning and again on Friday.



18 March 2013

Port Botany, Port Kembla fetch $5 billion

The NSW Government has leased Port Botany and Port Kembla on a 99-year contract.

Following a six-month competitive bidding process, the 99-year lease of state-owned port assets at Port Botany and Port Kembla has been awarded to the NSW Ports Consortium for $5.07 billion, with net proceeds of around $4 billion to be invested in the NSW Government’s infrastructure fund – Restart NSW.

$4.31 billion came from the Port Botany transaction package and A$760 million from Port Kembla.

Net proceeds from the two leases will be invested in the government’s infrastructure fund, Restart NSW, with 30 per cent of funds reserved for projects in regional areas and a further $100 million dedicated for infrastructure projects in the Illawarra.

Mr Baird said: “There are now vital funds for the delivery of WestConnex, Bridges for the Bush, the Pacific Highway and the Princes Highway. The government has now funded its commitment to WestConnex and there is $100m for spending on new infrastructure projects in the Illawarra region.”

NSW Ports Consortium comprises Industry Funds Management (IFM), Australian Super, QSuper and Tawreed Investments Limited, a wholly-owned subsidiary of the Abu Dhabi Investment Authority (ADIA). QSuper’s investment in Port Botany and Port Kembla will be managed by Global Infrastructure Partners (GIP).

The NSW Government will retain regulatory oversight of the ports as well as responsibility for a range of maritime safety and security functions, including the role of Harbour Master, the dangerous goods function and pilotage.

Mr Baird said a small number of Sydney Ports Corporation and Port Kembla Port Corporation employees would transfer to the port lessee.

“Enterprise agreement employees will receive a two-year employment guarantee, a transfer payment of up to 30 weeks pay, continuation of current superannuation arrangements, transfer of all sick leave and the ability to transfer or cash out annual and long service leave. These employees will transfer on the same terms and conditions.

“Remaining Sydney Ports Corporation and Port Kembla Port Corporation employees will continue to manage and administer those important maritime functions which will remain with the State,” Mr Baird said.

The transaction is expected to close on 31 May 2013.

Bouquets and brickbats

As can be expected, the decision drew a variety of responses from industry.

Greg Cameron: a bad deal

The bi-partisan political decision that there will never be a container terminal at Newcastle is for the purpose of preventing the Hunter and northern regions of New South Wales benefiting from a container terminal. It is a sad reflection on the quality of representation.

In 1997, BHP proposed a container terminal on the company’s steelworks site as a commercially viable future use of the site after steelmaking. In 2000, confidential negotiations took place between BHP and the state government to transfer the site into government ownership, as revealed in a Question On Notice from the (former) member for MyallLakes, Mr John Turner, on 11 October 2000 (enclosed).

The NSW government took ownership of the container terminal site in 2001 to prevent competition with Port Botany Container Terminal.

Last year, the number of containers moved through Port Botany Container Terminal was 2 million TEU. Eighty-five per cent of these containers were packed or unpacked within 40 km of Port Botany. Fifteen per cent of containers were transported by rail and 85% were transported by truck.

When container movements through Port Botany reach 7 million TEU a year in 2030, between 4 million and 5 million will be sent by train and truck to intermodal terminals in outer western Sydney. Containers, or their contents, destined for northern NSW will then be sent from western Sydney. For the Hunter and northern NSW regions, the impost in both cost and time is unjustified.

But transporting containers by rail between Newcastle and outer western Sydney is faster and at comparable cost compared with using Port Botany.

In 1997, BHP’s motivation was economic development – jobs. BHP was replaced by the state government. Then, as now, there is bi-partisan political support against using the container terminal site for economic development and job creation .

Selling the long-term lease to Port Botany Container Terminal for $4 billion does nothing to benefit the Hunter or northern Regions of NSW. The cost of completing the Northern Sydney Freight Corridor alone is $4 billion.

FTA: wait and see

As per the experience at other ports subject to privatisation, potential exists for the consortium to increase rates on incumbent tenants at bulk liquid berths and container terminals. Industry and public concerns centre on the downstream implications on increased petrol prices and fees associated with international trade through the ports.

Director of Freight & Trade Alliance (FTA) Paul Zalai said assurances have been received by the NSW Treasurer that pricing safeguards are in place: “The consortium will have to notify the government of any charge increase, allowing the Minister to seek further detail and/or refer the matter for consideration by the Independent Pricing and Regulatory Tribunal.”

Mr Zalai also said that avenues exist via the National Competition Council under Commonwealth legislation in the event of a pricing dispute.

Mr Zalai acknowledged the rationale to privatise Port Botany and Port Kembla, allowing the NSW government to gain much needed revenue, adding that it also provides potential benefits for commerce: “It is envisaged that the new port operators will focus on efficiency gains through better use of existing assets and co-ordination of resources.”

Mr Zalai also highlighted the importance of the Port Botany Landside Improvement Strategy (PBLIS), which has significantly reduced truck queues, delays to deliveries and waiting time detention fees. “We need to know how this important reform initiative will be managed under the new port arrangements to ensure that we build on the results achieved to date.”



12 March 2013

Joint Investigation Results in Australia’s Largest Recorded ‘Ice’ Seizure

The Joint Organised Crime Group (JOCG) has seized 585 kilograms of methamphetamine (ice) worth up to $438 million and arrested three people in relation to the record haul.

This is the largest single seizure of Ice in Australian law enforcement history and almost doubles the previous record seizure of 300 kilograms in July 2012.

The JOCG is a joint taskforce comprising Australian Federal Police (AFP), Australian Customs and Border Protection Service, NSW Police Force, the NSW Crime Commission (NSWCC) and the Australian Crime Commission (ACC).

Over half a tonne of drugs was seized in Sydney during the operation, as police executed six search warrants across Sydney which included properties in Regents Park, Bexley North, Wakeley, Canley Heights, Beverly Hills and Ryde.

The AFP and NSW Police Force arrested a 21-year-old Australian national, a 32-year-old Singaporean national and a 51-year-old Hong Kong national in relation to the seizure yesterday (27 February), when attempting to take possession of the drugs.

All three alleged offenders are expected to face Sydney Central Local Court.

The three have been charged with a range of offences including three counts of attempt to possess a commercial quantity of a border controlled drug, contrary to section 307.5 of the Criminal Code 1995.

The maximum penalty for these offences is life imprisonment and/or a $1,275,000 fine.

In September 2012, the NSW Police’s Asian Crime Squad and the Australian Customs and Border Protection Service received information relating to a man possibly involved in a drug importation into Australia. As a result of this information, the JOCG commenced an investigation into the planned import of illicit drugs into Australia.

In February 2013, Customs and Border Protection identified four sea cargo consignments linked to the investigation. Following an extensive examination, on Friday 22 February 38 plastic bags containing a crystalline substance concealed in six one tonne bags marked as the cleaning chemical sodium metabisulphite were located.

The crystalline substance tested positive for methamphetamine.

AFP Commissioner Tony Negus said the syndicate showed an understanding of law enforcement methodology and went to considerable lengths to escape detection.

“This operation demonstrates that the AFP and its partners have the capability to detect and dismantle the most sophisticated organised crime groups,” Commissioner Negus said.

Customs and Border Protection Chief Executive Officer Michael Pezzullo said that disrupting the trade in illicit substances was a joint effort.

“These arrests were the result of solid intelligence, professionally shared between law enforcement agencies.”

“By sharing intelligence we close the net tighter on these criminals, no matter how elaborate their concealments or how developed their enterprises,” Mr Pezzullo said.

NSW Police Force Commissioner Andrew Scipione said this investigation is a perfect example of how an investigation can start with one law enforcement agency, and expand to include multiple agencies working together to prevent prohibited drugs from reaching street level.

“Our Asian Crime Squad first began investigating this matter in September last year, and carried out vital investigative ground work.”

“As the sheer scale and complexity of this operation became apparent, we quickly involved our partner agencies. Our combined resources and talents have resulted in what is clearly a very significant seizure of drugs, and the arrests of people we will allege were involved in importing them to Australia,” Commissioner Scipione said.

NSW Crime Commissioner Mr Peter Hastings QC said this outcome is a tremendous result originating from a small piece of intelligence gathered by the NSW Police’s South East Asian Crime Squad and developed in consultation with the NSWCC and partner agencies into the largest seizure of ice in Australia’s history. It is a clear demonstration of co-operative professional law enforcement.

Enquiries are continuing and the AFP has not ruled out further arrests.



8 March 2013

Designers Find More Space in Shipping Container

A new container design is set to change the economics of shipping palletised cargo, allowing cargo owners and consolidators to increase significantly the volume of cargo shipped at any one time.

UK-based container design company Container Group Technology (CGT) Ltd has released the 20-20 SeaCell Container. From the outside the patented ‘20-20’ looks little different from a conventional ISO 20ft shipping container, however, subtle innovations on the outside and inside of the container enable the unit to provide for 36% greater pallet space.

In practical terms, this means that for each tier, 15 Euro-pallets (1200mm x 800mm) can be loaded into the container instead just 11 Euro-pallets in a standard ISO 20ft dry container. With standard ISO pallets (1200mm x 1000mm), the 20-20 can load 12 units, two more than in a conventional 20ft container (see graphic).

And by using 100% of the floor area, pallets fit snugly together inside the container making the 20-20 ideal for using lightweight slip-sheets or paper pallets, thereby reducing costs and increasing useable volume and payload at the same time.

The 20-20 SeaCell Container achieves this feat by being exactly 20ft (6096mm) in length and 2426mm wide internally. Standard 20ft containers are, in fact, 19ft 10½ ins (6058mm) long x 7ft 7¾ ins (2330mm) wide internally. Thus the internal length of the 20-20 allows it to accommodate the additional four Euro-pallets or two ISO pallets per tier. The door opening width is 2408mm which allows fork-lift trucks to load pallets two or three at a time.


Twin-lift container

In addition, two of the 20-20 containers can be easily locked together from the outside with no special tools to make a 40ft container, but again with significantly greater internal volume than standard. Two 20-20 containers will carry six more pallets than one standard 40ft container. It is also possible to mix Euro & Standard pallets in the same 20-20 and still have 100% pallet utilisation.

The 20-20 is fitted with larger corner castings of the type typically used in flatrack containers, enabling them to be lifted by standard 20ft or 40ft spreaders, loaded singly or as a pair into a containership’s 40ft cells, or onto any current road chassis and rail wagon.

An integral locking mechanism in the corner casting is activated from the outside of the container. In just a few minutes, the two 20-20 containers can be securely locked together and lifted as a single ‘40ft’ unit. In the standard configuration, two 20-20s are joined at the front ends, ie, with the doors accessible at each end of the combined containers. However, if requested CGT can also position the locking mechanism at the door-end corner castings so that the two 20-20 units are effectively sealed until reaching their final destination. This is an important feature for high-value or sensitive cargoes.

Lifting two 20ft containers together has been made possible in the past decade by innovations in container lifting technology, and it has become increasingly popular with shipping lines and container port terminals as a way of loading and discharging ships faster and more efficiently.

However, it is only now, with the introduction of the 20-20 SeaCell Container, that the ability to lock and lift two 20ft containers and handle them as a single 34 ton maximum gross weight (MGW) unit has been made possible.

Prototypes of the 20-20 container have been built and fully tested in China, and the new design is being made available for sale or lease.



18 February 2013

DP World to Upgrade Melbourne Terminal Operations

Stevedore DP World will shut down at its Melbourne terminal for 24 hours next month as it upgrades its IT operating system.


Vessel and road operations will be put on hold between 2200 on Sunday, March 10 and 2200 March 11 at the terminal, while the stevedore upgrades to the SPARCS N4 Terminal Operating System.

DP World’s online Melbourne customer portal will be offline throughout the stoppage as well.

“The outage will affect access to the terminal system during the upgrade,” DP World told customers.

“This includes Customs and all 1-Stop Messaging systems.”

But the short stoppage will be worth the trouble, DP World said.

“This major investment by DP World Australia is required to provide our business, and more importantly our customers, the level of service required in Melbourne now, and well into the future,” the stevedore said.

First developed in 2006, the SPARCS N4 Terminal Operating System is marketed by the Cargotec-owned company Navis and is employed in over 50 terminals worldwide.

Installation of the SPARCS N4 system is also part of DP World’s development plans for its Brisbane terminal and the system was installed at its Port Botany terminal in 2010.



13 February 2013

Chain of Responsibility - Are You in the Crosshairs?

Roads and Maritime Services, the authority responsible for enforcing the ‘chain of responsibility’ heavy vehicle laws in NSW, has recently announced that it is actively targeting participants up and down the chain – including consignors, consignees and others responsible for handling shipping containers.

Freight forwarders, logistics providers, 3PL terminal and warehouse operators, exporters and importers, amongst others, are now firmly in the crosshairs for chain of responsibility prosecution.

The chain of responsibility laws impose duties on each participant in the logistics chain to take steps to avoid the breach of any of mass (overloading), dimension (oversize) and load restraint (unsecured packing and load shifting) road transport laws.

Each party in the logistics chain, including the consignor, consignee, packer, loader, employer, operator, scheduler, loading manager, unloader and prime contractor, must take all reasonable steps to ensure that breaches do not occur. This may include obligations on one party in the chain to monitor the chain of responsibility policies and compliance of other contracting parties in the chain.

In this way, each party in the logistics chain becomes a deputy sheriff for policing compliance by its agents and service providers.

In NSW, the ultimate sheriff is Roads and Maritime Services (RMS), which is the investigative and prosecuting authority for chain of responsibility breaches.

We recently attended an annual chain of responsibility conference in Sydney at which the RMS director of compliance spoke.

Historically, RMS has targeted operators of heavy vehicles for chain of responsibility breaches. However, due to an apprehension that those further removed up and down the chain may be unaware of or ignoring their independent obligations, RMS indicated a firm policy of spreading awareness to those up and down the chain through enforcement.

Consignors, consignees, packers and loaders/unloaders can expect increased scrutiny and enforcement action.

Frequently, freight forwarders and logistics providers are named as ‘consignors’ and ‘consignees’ on shipping transport documentation.

3PL terminal and warehouse operators are often responsible for packing and/or breaking down FCL cargo and repacking it for transport by road and may fall within the definition of ‘packer’ under the chain of responsibility.

Retail exporters and importers are often responsible for loading or unloading shipping containers and providing container weight information to other parties in the chain and may fall within the definition of ‘loader’ or ‘unloader’.

Therefore, freight forwarders, logistics providers, 3PL terminal and warehouse operators and retail exporters and importers may fall within the chain of responsibility and potentially be held liable for any cargo mass (overloading), dimension (oversize) and load restraint (unsecured packing and load shifting) offence committed in relation to cargo, including where committed by another party in the chain.

Maximum penalties for breaches range from $825 to $11,000 for individuals and $4125 to $55,000 for corporations, per offence.

In addition, where a corporation commits a chain of responsibility offence, each director and each person concerned in the management of the corporation is automatically deemed to have committed the same offence and is punishable personally, with maximum penalties ranging from $825 to $11,000 per offence.

Similarly, where an employee commits an offence, the employer is automatically deemed to have committed the same offence and is punishable accordingly.

Further, parties found guilty will likely be ordered to pay RMS’ legal costs of any such prosecution, which can be considerable and could even outweigh the fines imposed.

With RMS actively targeting freight forwarders, logistics providers, 3PL terminal and warehouse operators, exporters and importers, all parties who transport, handle or are responsible for the transport of goods by road in Australia should seek advice in relation to their chain of responsibility compliance in order to avoid potentially costly prosecutions.



7 February 2013

Build an Outer Western Sydney Dedicated Freight Rail Line

Opinion – Greg Cameron

Work can start immediately to design and build outer Western Sydney’s dedicated freight rail line between Glenfield, Eastern Creek and Newcastle.

‘SydneyFreightWest’ is a proposal to privately fund and operate a container terminal at Newcastle; a dedicated freight rail line to Eastern Creek; and an intermodal terminal at Eastern Creek with a connection to Glenfield and the main rail line south. Taxpayers will be saved the $4 billion it would cost to build a dedicated freight rail line between Strathfield and the Hawkesbury River. SydneyFreightWest can be completed and operating before 2028, when the Sydney metropolitan rail system will reach capacity for freight train movements.

Last year, four heavyweight reports by the NSW government recommended identification and preservation of the Outer Western Sydney Orbital Road/Rail Corridor: NSW State Infrastructure Strategy, NSW Long Term Transport Masterplan, Draft NSW Freight and Ports Strategy, and Joint Study on Aviation Capacity in the Sydney Region. An earlier report, the 2007 Pearlman Review of the F3 to M7 Corridor Selection, found that “there are strategic reasons why an additional corridor to the north will be justifiable at least in some time in the future. These reasons arise from the vulnerability of the F3 to closure because of accident, bushfire and the single Hawkesbury River crossing.”

With SydneyFreightWest, it will be faster to rail containers between Newcastle and Eastern Creek than it will be to ship containers past Newcastle to Port Botany and move them by rail to Eastern Creek. The cost difference in rail transportation is trivial – it is the difference between a 400km round trip from Newcastle and a 120km round trip from Port Botany. The NSW government must build the proposed Western Freight Line, between Chullora and Eastern Creek, if containers are to be railed between Port Botany and Eastern Creek. The alternative is to truck containers. A better use for the western line corridor is for passenger rail.

An economic impact study will demonstrate that the benefits of the Newcastle/orbital option will significantly outweigh those of the Port Botany option. These include: reducing the growth in commuter trips by road by removing freight from the Sydney and Newcastle metropolitan rail systems and increasing passenger services; planning economic growth in western Sydney with reference to a long-term freight strategy, centred on Eastern Creek; progressively relocating warehouses, port-related industry and container handling facilities from expensive real estate in eastern Sydney to western Sydney, where superior facilities and logistics can be built and attractive capital gains realised; lowering the cost of freight for all of northern NSW; and providing a viable alternative to road freight transport in NSW (75% of interstate freight entering NSW has Sydney as its destination).

Construction of an intermodal terminal at Eastern Creek must start immediately to meet expected growth in container movements. By 2050, it is estimated that container movements will be 13 million TEU, compared with 2 million TEU movements in 2012. The proposed Moorebank intermodal terminal, with its 1.2 million TEU capacity, is undersized and will reach capacity before 2020.

Leasing Newcastle’s container terminal site would replace the NSW government’s current plan for leasing Port Botany container terminal. The Port Botany container terminal site can be used for more productive purposes, such as expanding passenger services for Sydney Airport, reducing airport traffic congestion, improving air cargo handling facilities and extending the second parallel runway to accept larger aircraft that carry more passengers.

Candidates for the September federal election can declare if they support or oppose the SydneyFreightWest proposal. However, if the dedicated freight rail line is to be built between Strathfield and the Hawkesbury River, Labor and the Coalition are obliged to respond to the NSW government’s request for the funds.



6 February 2013

Destinations are Changing for Australia’s Agriculture Exports

AS WITH most things in business these days, it’s all about China.

This is now also the case when it comes to Australian agricultural exports. Already, the shape of our nations’ food and fibre exports has begun to have an East Asian focus, but in coming years China is forecast to dominate.

When it comes to Australian food exports, China currently comes in fifth with a free-on-board value of $2m in 2011/12, an increase of 33% on the previous year and quadruple the amount it was five years ago.

It trails behind Japan ($4.4m), Indonesia ($2.4m), Korea ($2.3m) and the US ($2.2m).

China’s demand for agricultural commodities is expected to continue growing and ultimately dominate Australian exports to the region, according to Rabobank analyst Marc Soccio.

While China will dominate, east Asia in general will become an increasingly important market for Australian agricultural products.

“The global economic downturn has helped to bring this realisation into sharper focus, with the region continuing to expand its slice of the global economic pie and offer opportunities no longer available in traditional markets,” said Mr Soccio in his recently-released Rabobank report titled Feeding East Asia.

Advanced countries in the region such as Japan are expected to downgrade imports of Australian agricultural commodities while others such as China and member states of ASEAN (Association of South East Asian Nations) are expected to grow in influence.

Industrialised countries such as Korea, Taiwan, Singapore and Hong Kong are expected to maintain imports at current levels.

While traditional markets for Australian agricultural products take less, demand in Asia is increasing due to rising incomes.

“As the economies in our region grow, and per capita incomes rise, consumers will increasingly demand safe, high-quality, high-protein food,” stated a report published recently by the Australian and Chinese governments focusing on ways to cooperate on food security.

Typically as incomes rise, diets tend to shift from starchy staple foods, to those with higher levels of protein and energy.

“Food expenditure is often one of the first items to receive a boost as incomes rise. Meat and dairy products in particular benefit from a high income,” said Mr Soccio.

In addition to changing diets, population growth and a scarcity of land and water resources will likely increase demand for agricultural products from neighbouring regions.

While many countries in the Asia Pacific are agricultural producers in their own right and will try to meet their own needs, the region is constrained in terms of supply.

Asia’s agricultural production is only expected to account for half the amount of its contribution to the increase in demand for agricultural goods.

For example, China is the world’s largest producer of grains but most of that is consumed domestically.

Interest has been growing from Asian investors in the Australian agricultural industry in order to secure food supplies. Agribusiness player Bunge is reportedly interested in acquiring a grain terminal in Western Australia and Heilongjiang Feng Agricultural Group, a subsidiary of the Chinese Beidahunag Group, has recently spent $29m on 23,000 hectares of agricultural land in WA.

Australia has typically exported two-thirds of its agricultural products and while domestic demand is expected grow, it is still expected to produce agricultural surpluses in coming years.

This means that Australian suppliers are well placed to meet the growing demand for agricultural commodities in the coming years.

Current exports to east Asia

Currently north-east Asia dominates Australian agricultural exports to the region with a free-on-board value of $14.8bn in 2011/12 compared with exports to south-east Asia being valued at $6.7bn.

In north-east Asia, the main imports from Australia are beef ($2.7bn), wool ($2.2bn), cotton ($1.7bn), wheat ($1.3bn) and sugar ($782m). South-east Asia’s agricultural imports are dominated by wheat, which accounted for $2.7bn.

Agricultural exports to China have been increasing rapidly. During the 2011/12 financial year, the free-on-board value of agricultural exports to China increased 45% on the previous corresponding period to $6.5bn. Raw cotton exports increased two-fold, while fruit and vegetable exports increased 139%.

Dairy and meat products have also seen increasing demand from China. Over the past five years, Australian exports of meat have quadrupled, with the majority of that being containerised lamb.

There is little demand for live exports to China.

Meanwhile, dairy exports to China have doubled, with cheese and skim milk powder key contributors.

Total dairy exports had a value of $81m in 2006/07 but are now worth $164m.

Agricultural exports to Japan have also been on the rise but not with the same haste.

Last financial year, Australian agricultural exports to Japan increased 0.5% to $4bn. Total dairy exports increased 18% on the previous year while meat exports dropped 0.6%.

Exports of grains and oilseeds increased 26% despite wheat exports taking a slight hit. This was countered by a 41% increase in barley exports.


By 2021, over half world demand for meat is expected to come from the Asia Pacific region with a percentage share of 56%. Latin America will have the next highest demand at 18%. Much of the increase in the Asia Pacific will be met by domestic production of pork and poultry, but beef and lamb imports into China and the ASEAN countries will likely increase.

While boxed beef exports to two of Australia’s biggest beef export markets, Japan and Korea, waned in 2012, new markets in the Asia Pacific are emerging.

Australian shipments of beef and veal to China in November reached a record level of 7955 tonnes, a seven-fold increase year-on-year according to Meat and Livestock Australia (MLA).

Beef exports to China had grown solidly throughout the year, increasing 254% over the first eleven months of 2012 on the same period the previous year. Increases were also seen in Taiwan (up 27% year on year), the Philippines (up 32% year on year) and Malaysia (up 32% year on year) in September.

Total lamb exports from Australia increased 31% year on year last November to 18,700 tonnes, driven by increased supply. Increased lamb production is forecast to continue increasing in 2012/13, seeing a 15% rise in export volumes to 200,000 tonnes.

The increases are expected to come from the US, China and the Middle East due to lower export prices, according to the Australian Bureau of Agricultural and Resources Economics and Sciences’ (ABARES) December quarter Agricultural Commodities report.

China is now one of Australia’s key export markets for lamb. Total shipments of the meat for the first eleven months of 2012 rose 37% on the previous corresponding period to 26,600 tonnes.

For New Zealand, China has now become its key export destination for lamb, taking over from the UK. NZ lamb exports to China doubled in October 2012 on the previous corresponding period.

While NZ’s lamb exports have been diverted to other markets such as China following weak European demand, this increased competition has not yet had an impact on Australian exports to China.


Demand for dairy products in the Asia Pacific region is expected to grow about 22% over the next 10 years.

Currently, Asian demand for these products is well below the worldwide average but by 2021 per capita consumption is expected to be just slightly less than the world average.

Demand in the Asia Pacific for dairy will still trail Europe, North America and Latin America in per capita consumption.

Increasing demand for dairy can be seen by the increase in exports to China over the past five years with Australian dairy exports doubling their free-on-board value.

Meanwhile, Japan’s increased demand for dairy has begun to plateau, with the value of Australian exports only increasing 10% over the past five years.

Per capita consumption expenditure of dairy in Japan saw a five-fold increase in the 25 years between 1965 and 1990 but since then, while per capita expenditure has continued to increase, it has been much slower.

The 21 years between 1990 and 2011 saw dairy consumption increase 64%.


Australia’s wheat exports are dominated by the Asian market, with 72% of bulk exports going to the region in the last financial year. Australian wheat going to Asia totalled 15.9m tonnes in 2011/12 which was a 43% increase on the previous year.

Indonesia has been the biggest importer of Australian wheat for the past 10 years, importing 3.9mt in 2011/12 and accounting for 22.1% of Australian bulk exports.

This was followed by South Korea accounting for 15% and China for 13.3%.

China’s wheat exports in 2011/12 increased nearly four-fold on the previous year from 0.5mt to 2.4mt.

The top seven importers of Australian wheat are all from the Asia Pacific region. Australia’s market share in the region has been increasing since 2007/08 when it was at 26% to a current share of 53%.


Australian sugar production downgrades have left the commodity’s export estimates for 2012/13 at 2.9mt. South-east Asia also receives the majority of Australia’s sugar exports.

China is the world’s second largest consumer of sugar followed by Thailand. A sugar deficit in China is projected in the coming years, which may in part be met by production in Thailand.

However, in Australia foreign investors have had their eye on the Australian sugar industry. Over the past decade nearly three quarters of the country’s sugar refining assets have been taken over by foreign investors.

Of this, two-thirds are now owned by businesses based in east Asia.

The latest foray into that market is the Chinese company Shanghai Zhongfu which was recently announced as the preferred proponent to lease and develop 13,400 hectares of irrigated farmland under the Ord-East Kimberley Expansion Project. The development would see 500,000 tonnes of sugar exported annually.


While wine exports have dropped over the past year, export volumes are expected to improve this year due to higher availability of the 2012 vintage.

Wine exports to China over the past five years have skyrocketed, increasing three-fold since 2006/07 from $49m to $209m in 2011/12. This increase has now placed China as Australia’s fourth largest market for wine exports, following the UK, US and Canada.



5 February 2013

Feasibility Study into Victoria Western Freight Terminal

A proposed Western Interstate Freight Terminal (WIFT) would ease congestion around the port of Melbourne, the Federal and Victorian governments believe.

A joint statement from Federal infrastructure minister Anthony Albanese and Victorian transport minister Terry Mulder announced a pre-feasibility study into the WIFT, bankrolled by the Federal ($3.5m) and Victorian ($1.5m) governments.

The WIFT would be built at Truganina in Melbourne’s west, linking with the Interstate Rail Freight Network.

Currently interstate containers bound for distribution in Melbourne are railed to terminals adjacent to the port and then trucked to the outer suburbs.

The statement referred to the WIFT as being able to remove 700,000 trucks a year from Melbourne's roads.

Mr Albanese said the new development would complement the extensive capital-works program aimed at rebuilding the 10,000km Interstate Rail Freight Network.

“New sleepers, track, passing loops and signalling technology will not be enough to fully restore rail’s competitiveness and reliability,” he said.

“It also needs to be better integrated with other modes of transport, including our ports and roads.”

Victorian public transport and roads minister Terry Mulder said the WIFT would reduce freight traffic through Melbourne's inner west potentially removing up to 2000 daily truck movements from the precinct.

“The WIFT would reduce truck movements in Melbourne’s inner west, open up landside capacity for the port of Melbourne ... and enhance Victoria’s reputation as the nation’s freight and logistics hub,” Mr Mulder said.

“With forecasts showing interstate rail freight through Melbourne will triple by 2030, it is important to plan now.”



4 February 2013

Import Internet Trade: Should Taxes Apply?

FTA founder Paul Zalai tackles the question being asked by retailers, politicians and internet traders alike, in his weekly opinion spot.

FTA subscribers will recall our background paper and commentary related to the Low Value Parcel Processing Taskforce (the Taskforce) balancing the need to facilitate trade of low value consignments whilst protecting revenue (particularly the states’ GST revenue) and giving “bricks and mortar” retailers a level commercial playing field.

Since this time the Assistant Treasurer, The Hon David Bradbury, provided a media release on 3 December 2012 with the Government's response to the Taskforce report.

The response indicates that in the first instance, any reduction in the low value threshold would be for GST only. The Government will introduce legislation to separate the low value threshold for GST purposes and the threshold for customs duty.

The threshold for GST will be included in the GST legislation and, while initially set at the current level, will be able to be varied to reflect any decision to lower the threshold. The Government will consider expansion of the GST deferral scheme should there be any significant reduction in the threshold.

The threshold for customs duty will remain at $1,000 until such time as sufficient data and systems necessary for efficient and effective customs duty assessment become available.

The Government will further engage with industry to consider simplified GST assessment methodologies, systems, compliance implications, Customs & Border Protection / DAFF cost recovery implications and potentially overseas collection practices.

The Government's full response to the Taskforce recommendations is outlined in a concise document available by clicking HERE.



1 February 2013

Looking Forward to a Year of Progress

As we shrug off the Christmas lethargy, it may pay to ponder what the year 2013 has in store for the shipping sector.

It would appear there are many challenging and interesting issues that should occupy many column inches in this newspaper and bar-room discussions among those working in the industry.

For starters a likely change in government at the Federal level has potentially huge implications.

The Tony Abbott-led Liberal/National opposition has been quiet on where it stands in relation to the Labor government’s shipping reforms. Mr Abbott has pledged to repeal other pieces of legislation from the current government and there must be those who wonder if these laws would be in the firing line too.

There also have been suggestions that the Gillard government has been influenced in its policies by the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA).

Given the MUA and the Liberal Party are sworn enemies, it’s easy to see how there is potential for conflict should the electorate give Labor its marching orders.

Last year saw much conflict on the industrial relations front. However the year 2013 looks a little more promising.

A dispute at Fremantle was resolved late in 2012.

Patrick and the MUA have also struck deals at both container and bulk and general terminals. As a consequence, there is potential for greater harmony and less squabbling before Fair Work Australia tribunals.

This should in turn prove a boon for waterfront productivity, an issue that is sometimes seen as significant for the national economy.

But industrial relations will remain an issue across the ‘ditch’. Ports of Auckland management and the Maritime Union of New Zealand are still at loggerheads. The issues in question are the same as a year ago, particularly plans to contract out stevedoring work.

While the dispute has gone through hot and cold periods, it remains unresolved, despite the intervention of leading political figures such as the mayor of Auckland. Given the significant role Auckland has in the shipping cycle in NZ, it is important for this issue to be resolved quickly.

In terms of the minerals sector, an eagle-eye remain on China. Will declining growth in that nation affect demand for commodities such as iron ore (principally) and, to a lesser extent, coal?

The election of a new government in Japan also has implications, with the new administration indicating it wants to keep faith with nuclear energy. That in turn could slacken interest in major liquefied natural gas projects.

Infrastructure continues to be an issue.

The Victorian government is already pushing ahead with a new container terminal at Webb Dock and has publicly committed to a container terminal at Hastings in the future. But it faces pressure to consider a ‘Bay West’ option rather than Hastings as a future container terminal site.

The New South Wales government also faces crucial decisions as it goes ahead with plans to privatise Port Botany and Port Kembla.

Overall it should be a fascinating year for the industry.





  1. -2012

  2. -2013