Port of New­cas­tle fails to es­cape ACCC clutches

Australian Transport News - - News -

The full court of the Fed­eral Court has re­in­forced the Aus­tralian Com­pe­ti­tion and Con­sumer Com­mis­sion ( ACCC) and Aus­tralia Com­pe­ti­tion Tri­bunal’s ( ACT’s) pow­ers over port charges.

In a unan­i­mous de­ci­sion, the Fed­eral Court re­jected a Port of New­cas­tle ap­peal against the ACCC’s de­ci­sion to make its op­er­a­tions a ‘de­clared ser­vice’, in a case coal ex­porter Glen­core brought af­ter the newly pri­va­tised port raised ser­vice prices sharply.

The out­come means the ACCC re­tains over­sight and reg­u­la­tion of port op­er­a­tions as they af­fect charges.

Glen­core wel­comed the judge­ment: “Since its pri­vati­sa­tion for $1.75 bil­lion in 2014, the Port of New­cas­tle has reval­ued its as­sets and in­creased ship­ping fees by in ex­cess of 60 per cent without any change in the na­ture or qual­ity of ser­vice pro­vided,” it says. “The in­tro­duc­tion of a rea­son­able reg­u­la­tory con­straint is critical for all users of monopoly­owned in­fra­struc­ture.”

The de­ci­sion is a blow to Port of New­cas­tle, also known as Port of New­cas­tle Op­er­a­tions (PNO), which ar­gues that ser­vice charges have failed to keep up with in ation over the past 20 years and which has warned of pos­si­ble “un­in­tended con­se­quences” for other in­fra­struc­ture providers.

CEO Ge­off Crowe says the de­ci­sion could in­tro­duce a new layer of “costly reg­u­la­tion”.

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