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International benchmarking of container stevedoring

Commission research paper

This paper was released on 11 July 2003. This study updates aspects of the Commission’s 1998 study, international benchmarking of the Australian waterfront, which was based on data collected throughout 1997. The present study draws on data collected mainly during the 2002 calendar year for the same selection of ports.

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  • Key points
  • Media release
  • Contents

The productivity at Australian container terminals, as measured by Net Crane Rates, has improved significantly in absolute terms since 1997.

For the sample of ship calls and terminals studied by the Commission, productivity improved also in relative terms, with the productivity improvement at Australian terminals generally greater than at overseas terminals between 1997 and 2002.

As a consequence, there was an appreciable reduction in the overall productivity gap between Australian terminals and those at the overseas ports included in the study

  • this has been achieved despite inherent disadvantages related to generally smaller trade volumes and throughput at Australian terminals.

In 1997, container handling charges at Australian terminals were higher than those at most of the overseas terminals included in the study. Although still true, by 2002, the gap had been reduced, except for Nagoya and those sampled in the US.

Notwithstanding the productivity improvements since 1997, there may be scope for further gains in the relative performance of Australian terminals. For example, Tauranga terminal in New Zealand has been able to deliver higher productivity and lower charges than its Australian counterparts, with similar or lower throughput.

Australia's ports have largely bridged the productivity gap with their overseas counterparts, according to a new Productivity Commission study.

The report — International Benchmarking of Container Stevedoring — reviews the performance of Australian and overseas container terminals between 1997 and 2002.

In a previous study, the Productivity Commission found that Australia's waterfront productivity in 1997 lagged significantly behind its trading partners. It also found that container handling charges in Australia were higher.

Productivity Commission Chairman Gary Banks, commenting on the latest study said: 'Following work practice and other reforms, we are now seeing productivity performance at Australian ports that is comparable with our overseas competitors. There has also been some reduction in relative charges at container terminals over the past six years'.

The Commission noted that new technology, reduced over-manning and other workplace reforms, had all contributed to improving the relative performance of Australia's container terminals. It emphasised that the improvements had occurred despite the inherent disadvantage of relatively small trade volumes and throughput at Australian terminals. By the same token, the Commission found that the Tauranga terminal in New Zealand had been able to deliver even higher productivity and lower charges than its Australian counterparts, notwithstanding similar scale disadvantages.

Mr Banks said: 'While there have been marked improvements, the New Zealand experience suggests that there may be scope for further gains at Australian ports'.

Cover, Copyright, Foreword, Contents, Key Points

1 Introduction
1.1 Study approach
1.2 Scope
1.3 Data collection
1.4 Benchmarking limitations
1.5 Report structure

2 Container stevedoring
2.1 Australia's place in world stevedoring
2.2 Pre-1998 reforms
2.3 The 1998 reform package
2.4 Developments since 1998

3 Container handling charges
3.1 Definitions and measurement issues
3.2 Comparisons
3.3 Conclusion

4 Container handling rates
4.1 Container handling rates as productivity measures
4.2 Factors influencing container handling rates
4.3 Comparisons
4.4 Are Australian container terminals gaining on their overseas counterparts?

A Data tables

B Definitions


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