Port of Melbourne potentially limited by containership growth

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A report produced by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) on the country’s stevedores has suggested that Port Botany has overtaken the Port of Melbourne for container trade due to constraints at the Victorian port, as first reported by The Age.

In 2016/17, Port Botany handled 34 per cent of Australia’s container movements, with 33 per cent going through the Port of Melbourne – down from 36 per cent in 2015/16.

While the report did not directly link the Port of Melbourne’s reduced volume to the increasing size of container ships, it noted that it is the most likely port to put limits on the size of ships visiting the country.

The Age noted that the biggest ship to visit Australia, the 347-metre Susan Maersk that docked at the Port of Brisbane in October, would have been unable to travel up the mouth of the Yarra River to Swanson Dock, and its 10,000 TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) load may or may not have managed to fit underneath the West Gate Bridge.

In a recent newsletter, industry body Shipping Australia wrote that with only one terminal able to take the larger ships – Webb Dock, with Swanson Dock out of reach – “Melbourne is already the limiting factor for the size of ships coming to Australia’s east coast ports and is preventing Australians benefiting from the efficiencies of larger ship operations.”

“The risk is that shipping lines may consider by-passing Melbourne for Adelaide or Sydney and use rail, or a smaller ship feeder service (possibly from New Zealand) to make the connection,” it added.

“This would ultimately cost the Victorian consumer, the Port of Melbourne and the state economy.”