As the COVID-19 pandemic wreaks havoc on the globe, Australia has faced its own difficulties and has taken on many measures to curb the spread of the pandemic further. With second wave lockdowns were set in motion in the last two months, there have been many issues that has surfaced in the sidelines. Whilst shipping services are considered essential, limitations/regulations and limited workforce at the Port of Melbourne and other ports in Australia have caused many since the Stage 4 lockdown were implemented. Let us broach this subject further.
With the slowing economy, which was assessed based on Jan-Jun 2020 timeline, there were many factors that slowed prior to the August 2020 lockdowns. With comparison to the 2020 Financial Year in June 2020, compared to that of June 2019, the following were evident as per the Port of Melbourne Update 8 release.
- Total container volumes (full and empty) 4.6% ▼
- Full overseas container imports 3.3% ▼
- Full overseas container exports 2.2% ▼
- Empty container throughput 6.5% ▼
- Tasmanian container volumes – Remains similar
- Motor vehicles (by units) 19.2% ▼
- Dry-bulk 1.8% ▼
- Liquid bulk 6.8% ▼
- Ship cancellations (blank vessel sailing) total – 43 – 72% ▲
Since August 2020, with the second wave and Stage 4 lockdown restrictions, freight transport has shifted to mostly sea freight with mixed commodities and thus has sea freight has increased in volume. However, delays at Port of Botany and various supply chain congestions due to weather and later by industrial actions, has affected the flow of operations at the Port of Melbourne greatly.
Industrial Action at Port of Melbourne and other Ports of Australia
On the 1st of October 2020, the Maritime Union of Australia (MUA) announced that they have paused its industrial action. The industrial actions have affected the operations of ports greatly in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic with wharves pay strikes being at the forefront of it Congestion surcharges have risen exponentially amidst the industrial action, with significant impacts on the Australian economy (with its impacts in the Port of Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane).The Fair Work Commission hearings are to resume on the 26th of October 2020, with the MUA being hopeful that a fair agreement can be arrived upon.