Stevedore Victoria International Container Terminal says a rail access plan being developed by Port of Melbourne risks placing it at an unfair disadvantage.

Port of Melbourne was required to develop a rail strategy within three years as part of the 2016 privatisation agreement,  however the current version outlines rail for Swanson and Appleton Docks but not Webb Dock.

VICT is at Webb Dock and reports having 25% of container volumes.

Port of Melbourne has proposed funding this project by increasing wharfage by $15 per TEU on imports across all three container terminals.

Chief executive Anders Dømmestrup said VICT “insists on a complete supply chain solution that incorporates industry reform, increased competition and provides a rail solution to all terminal operators within the port”.

“We must properly utilise the port infrastructure to ensure we meet Melbourne’s demand, which in turn will deliver widespread benefits across the entire supply chain industry,” he said.

“Currently, the proposed rail plan will be used to subsidise exporters at Swanson Dock container terminals, yet a cost equalisation program for users at Webb Dock has been ignored.”

Mr Dømmestrup said the rail solution should be one all port operators could access in a competitively neutral manner.

There has been a lack of engagement with VICT during this process and we are left without a clear understanding of the plan, funding details and impact to our customers,” he said.

“Whilst VICT supports improved rail infrastructure, it should be delivered in a fair manner which benefits all shippers and container terminal operators.” 

A Port of Melbourne spokesperson said they had been “undertaking a comprehensive stakeholder engagement process across the industry”.

“Port of Melbourne’s Port Rail Transformation project will not only see rail upgrades and improvements but investment in marine facilities to allow for larger ships,” the spokesperson said.

“Our tenants have the opportunity to assist the port and industry in delivering this game changing project to make rail to the port a reality. “Moving more containers on rail makes sense to everyone we talk to – and not just for today’s road congestion, but also for Melbourne’s growth over coming decades.”