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Local Port Stoppages Escalate: Australian Businesses and Consumers Set to Bear the Brunt


Last week, local industrial work stoppages took place in the Port of Melbourne and Sydney International Container Terminals, blocking ships carrying supplies into Australia. This week, The Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) has announced a series of 24-hour protected stoppages at major ports against tug boat operator Svitzer, owned by one of the world’s biggest shipping operators, Maersk, in protest over working conditions.  


The impact however, is not only felt by the tug boats being turned away but front-line businesses including transport planners, wharf operators, domestic logistics companies, international freight logistic companies, Australian importers and exporters, and consumers. 


The ripple effect of the stoppages continues to impact the day to day lives of Australians, with  Christmas goods anticipated to be delayed. Vessels carrying essential items for Australian businesses and consumers are being turned away - and more importantly, the vessels scheduled to export our Australian produce and manufacturing goods are also being dismissed. Given the events farmers have faced with droughts, floods and the pandemic, these delays are impacting several Australian homegrown industries. 


Jackson Meyer, CEO of Verus Global, an international freight forwarding company, has labelled the situation as “dire,” especially with the Christmas end of year peak season around the corner.  


“I empathise with the uncertainty exporters and importers are facing. These are fickle, unchartered territories for Australian businesses and consumers to navigate. As COVID-19 is disrupting the country, it's disappointing that the MUA has decided to proceed with industrial action at the most critical time for Australian’s, particularly given the chaos the stoppages have caused Australia's exporters and importers, and most importantly households across the country,” says Meyer. 


Average delays in Australia as of 15 July 2021: 

Patrick Sydney Terminal still has delays of approximately 6-8 days for off window vessels and up to 5 days for window vessels. Indicated delays are for this week’s vessels only and could change depending on labour absenteeism, final productivity, and weather. This is likely to mirror the 2020 events, with similar delays of three weeks or more.

DPW Melbourne is facing congestion due to all services arriving late and clashing. Vessels have commenced rerouting their scheduled transits due to the delays and the uncertainty of stoppages.

DPW Brisbane is facing congestion due to all services arriving late and clashing.

Melbourne terminals were affected over the weekend with heavy fog.

Sydney continues to battle a COVID outbreak, with lockdown extended until 30 July. These restrictions can affect terminal labour procurement and operational capabilities at the port with increased cleaning protocols in place.

Svitzer Tug Strike in Fremantle will affect services from 15 -17 July 2021.

Severe weather impacting Fremantle will cause vessel bunching and further delays.

Newly announced PIA action at Patrick terminals will impact vessel schedules.

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