Escalating industrial action with congestion surcharges at Melbourne port

By Margaret Bux
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Industrial action has dramatically escalated at the Port of Melbourne with the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) hitting the Victoria International Container Terminal’s (VICT) Webb Dock terminal with a series of stoppages that commenced early last week on Tuesday 16th, then 12 hours from 6 pm Friday 19th, and then a scheduled 3 x 12 hours or 36 hours non-stop from Sunday 21st February from 6.00 am.

VICT is Australia’s only fully automated container terminal.  It handles around 1m teu a year (or twenty-foot boxes) and accounts for one third of Victoria’s container freight.  From Monday, workers will be barred from operating the stevedore’s remote-controlled cranes unless a dedicated quayside supervisor mans each of the cranes.  This has been deemed as unnecessary by VICT, with the chief executive Tim Vancampen adding that the MUA was attempting “to steer the waterfront firmly back to the past, no matter the cost or the ill-considered timing”.  Victoria has faced severe supply-chain problems with the state just emerging from it’s third Covid-19 lockdown.  The MUA is demanding various other work restrictions, wage increases and rostering demands. 

While the economy, families, farmers, businesses, importers, exporters, freight forwarders, trucking and shipping industries will all be impacted by delays and shortages, there will be inevitable operating costs of shipping associated with re-routing, daily crewing costs, provisions, insurance, finance, etc.   The effect of delay is compounding from the time a ships first arrives then is delayed in Australia to when it finally departs its last port.  Heading back to Asia, it then has to speed up to make up for lost time in its schedule, which adds to fuel costs. 

Due to ongoing port congestion, some carriers have introduced a temporary port congestion surcharge of approximately USD 13 W/M varying from carrier to carrier, for all shipments going in and out of Melbourne from Monday onwards.  Clarke Global will only pass on the cost if it is applied by the carriers. 

If you have any queries or concerns, please do not hesitate to contact the team at Clarke Global Logistics on 9854 3000 or email

Photo by Margaret Bux


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