ACCC proposes to grant exemption to Port of Portland

Grain Central February 14, 2022

Port of Portland director Chum Darvall and commercial manager Shannon Curran inspect some of the port’s facilities last year. Photo: Port of Portland

THE Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) has released a draft determination proposing to grant Port of Portland Pty Ltd (POPL) exempt service provider status.

This is in relation to POPL being a bulk exporter of grain under the Port Terminal Access (Bulk Wheat) Code of Conduct.

An exemption would mean that POPL would not be required to comply with parts of the code because the ACCC would consider that POPL would face a high level of competitive constraint from competing port terminal facilities at Portland.

POPL is also seen by the ACCC to face a “limited but not insignificant” level of constraint from bulk grain export terminals at Geelong, Melbourne and Port Adelaide.

“The ACCC therefore considers that POPL has an incentive to provide fair and transparent access to port terminal services at its Portland facility,” ACCC said in a statement.

The ACCC has invited interested parties to respond to these preliminary views and will consider them prior to reaching a final view.

Exempted port terminal service providers are still required to publish shipping stems, but are not required to publish grain stocks held at port.

The closing date for submissions in relation to the POPL case is 9 March 2022.

Well-serviced region

Portland is located on Victoria’s south-west coast and the POPL facility is one of nine bulk grain terminals located between Melbourne and Adelaide, including terminals at both Melbourne and Adelaide.

With multiple operators, they collectively offer a level of competition found nowhere else on the Australian coast.

“The ACCC’s draft view is that an exemption is in the legitimate business interests of POPL,” its draft determination said.

“If POPL is determined to be an exempt provider it could be expected to engage more freely in commercial negotiations with access seekers, including through offering tailored access agreements.

“If exempted, POPL would also face reduced direct and indirect costs, largely as a result of greater flexibility to make changes to its capacity allocation arrangements and operations more broadly.”

In Victoria, GrainCorp’s Portland terminal is the only non-exempt facility, seeing as exemptions were granted to GrainCorp Geelong and Emerald Melbourne in 2015, Riordan Grain Services (RGS) Geelong in 2017, and RGS Portland in 2020.

POPL applied for an exemption in September 2021 and in its submission to the ACCC stated that its ship loader at Berth 5 at Portland had a nominal capacity of 600,000t.

The POPL submission said that during the 2020-21 season, Victoria’s and Portland’s largest bulk-export season on record, POPL loaded 356,000t of grain.

RGS also uses Berth 5, a common-user berth which shares access with other parties also, and ACCC noted that this joint use affects the ability of both to maximise capacity.

The maximum amount of grain GrainCorp exported in a 12-month period was 1.07 million tonnes in 2011-12, and 625,000t in the record 2020-21 crop year, below the 793,000t booked to load in 2021-22.

By comparison, RGS loaded 223,000t in 2020-21 at Portland.

Source: ACCC



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