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Operational impacts from catastrophic weather events

Together with Australian Peak Shippers Association (APSA), we again participated in the National Co-ordination Mechanism forum led by the Director General Emergency Management and included government, major transport, supermarket and retail representatives as we now face the unimaginable floods in Queensland and Northern NSW with the storm cells continuing to move down the Australian East Coast causing difficulties in logistics affecting East / West and North / South transport logistics.

With the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) authorisation overseeing relief measures in the supply of essential items (including food, water, hygiene and medical) to affected communities in an environment with rail limitations (closed between Coffs Harbour and Acacia Ridge) and restricted road access along the Australian East Coast.

On top of recovering from the rail / road closures via South Australia, Western Australia continues to deal with ex-Tropical Cyclone Anika located in the north Kimberley. We are all expecting that general domestic freight to affected areas will continue to be adversely impacted for the foreseeable future.


The following operational update as at 2.20pm AEDT Monday 1 March 2022:

• The Regional Harbour Master (RHM) advises that the port remains closed to all ship movements at present, due to the inherent risks from water velocity and the potential for debris including sunken objects and siltation build-up in our swing basins, berth pockets and channel.

• Port of Brisbane Pty Ltd (PBPL) is working closely with the RHM to deploy survey vessels to determine safe depth of the navigational areas as well as possible debris obstruction. The speed of the river current and turbidity at the moment is proving challenging in this regard.

• Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) and the state government is coordinating multiple salvage teams to remove any debris, and PBPL will deploy it's dredge and barge fleet to assist focusing on the port precincts.

• The RHM continues to assess the situation on an ongoing, case-by-case basis, with the aim of reopening the port as soon as it is safe to do so.

Importantly, there are no landside limitations within port precincts. All road and rail access remains operational.

Although anticipated, once vessel movements are restored, departing vessels will be prioritised. we should be prepared for the potential of port by-passing to assist shipping lines in maintaining international schedules. This may generate the risk of 'vessel bunching' at subsequent port operations.


We are seeing delays in container releases that are subject to biosecurity measures with many approved arrangement facilities at capacity with limited operational staff to deal with volumes. We have seen a number of cases where there is an inability to obtain BMSB verification inspections for 4-6 weeks. In such scenarios, and to avoid container detention penalties potentially tallying to tens of thousands of dollars, it is suggested to contact Seasonal Pests Policy ( and request if they can provide alternative solutions.

Many transport companies have put members on notice that regardless of the reason for any detention, cartage contractors will not accept any responsibility for any cost and charges. Whilst this is an understandable statement from transport operators, this would need to be tested in line with agreed terms and conditions between the affected parties.

In the current operating environment there will no doubt be many scenarios whereby the delay in returning empty containers within prescribed timeframes cannot be avoided. One such scenario, received from members and outlined above relates to 'vessel bunching' which causes excessive amounts of containers needing to be cleared from the terminals prior to the three (3) day free time expiring. This also creates a backlog at importers yards trying to unpack multiple containers and have them returned to the empty container parks (also under pressure) to avoid shipping line detention (initiated in some cases seven (7) days after discharge - NOT availability).

With our written request for major shipping lines to a blanket extension of detention free days being refused, most conceded they will assess the quantum of penalties on a ‘case by case’ basis. In some cases they have advised the problems are outside their control, while others have advised to apply for extra free time at origin. We encourage members to take up the offer of shipping lines to raise concerns and to document these scenarios. Whilst we acknowledge that this will cause an extra burden on your staff to create correspondence and maintain logs of delays etc, (not to mention extra work for shipping lines in having to manage such requests) it is necessary as all approaches to the shipping lines to create short term blanket extensions have failed, and no doubt their bottom line will continue to improve.

We are all hoping we can report a good news story in the weeks ahead of safe, fair and collaborative operational practices during these extreme times.


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