A major shipping industry body has welcomed Newcastle Port Corporation’s determination to cut coal ship queues.
Shipping Australia chief executive Llew Russell said his organisation had warned in 2009 that a ‘‘vessel arrival system’’ used since 2010 to keep most of the waiting coal ships away from the Newcastle anchorage would do nothing to reduce delays in the port.
‘‘We were trying to tell [then ports minister] Joe Tripodi that it was the way the coal was bought and sold that was the problem and that slowing the ships down on the way to Newcastle was not going to do anything about demurrage,’’ Mr Russell said.
The Newcastle Herald reported on Saturday that Newcastle port corporation chief executive Gary Webb was looking at ways to cut the port’s demurrage or late-loading bill.
In a May 2009 decision to approve arrangements at the port, the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission said a queue of about 55 ships would cost coal companies about $US400million, or almost $600million at the time.
The coal industry told the commission that reducing the queue to 25 vessels would cut the demurrage bill by three-quarters.
So-called ‘‘capacity framework arrangements’’ that the competition commission approved until 2024 were supposed to cut the queue and reduce demurrage costs but Mr Webb said last week this had failed to occur and on Friday the queue stood at 68 ships.
Coal prices have also fallen substantially since 2009, meaning demurrage costs represent a far greater percentage of potential profits.
Mr Russell said other shipborne cargoes did not face the sorts of delays that were commonplace on the east coast with coal-loaders.
‘‘Do we have too many people buying or selling coal?’’ he said.
‘‘It gets down to a better way of working and of more accurately matching loads with shipping capacity.
‘‘Gary’s on the right track and we wish him well because if he gets success in these areas it could well be emulated at other ports.’’
Source: The Herald