Sydney Container Logistics & Associated Additional Cost


To our Valued Customers,


A reduction in empty container park capacity, larger numbers of containers being handled, BSBM Quarantine fumigation congestion and a high level of import empty container ‘re-directions’ by shipping lines, are causing significant additional empty container handling costs in Sydney.


CTAA director Neil Chambers said: “The empty container management situation in Sydney has been getting progressively worse over a number of months now”.


“For many container transport operators, it has reached the stage where they cannot fully absorb the additional costs”.


“A conservative estimate is that the additional costs being borne by transport operators in managing empty containers in Sydney are between $90 to $200 per container, depending on the level of delay and additional handling necessary.”


Below breaks down the involvement required in today’s container logistics.


Staging of empty containers via transport yards: added costs

Gate capacity and available truck arrival slots are at a premium at some key Sydney empty container parks (ECP) given the numbers being directed to those facilities by shipping lines. This is amplified when the ECP do not operate regularly after hours or on weekends.


Therefore, the vast majority of empty containers must be staged through transport yards to manage the task.


This results in additional costs:

  • Container lift-on / lift off – container staging.
  • Additional administration and yard planning.
  • Additional truck travel to yard and one-way truck travel with reduced opportunities to backload.


In many instances, transport operators are unable to book sufficient truck arrival slots at designated ECP in a timely manner, leading to de-hire delays and significant risks that empty containers might attract container detention fees from shipping lines for late return.


Further to the above the ECP’s have also now implemented penalties which are applied for trucks that arrive early or late (outside the 1hr window) as well as higher slot booking fees for carriers that drop in after business hours.   


Empty container re-directions with little notice

“A significant contributor to the higher costs of empty container management in Sydney are the number and frequency of empty container ‘re-directions’ that are ordered at the discretion of the shipping lines with little notice.” observed Neil Chambers.


Port Botany is Australia’s empty container ‘re-direction capital’, with over 50 re-direction notices current every day, equating to hundreds of re-directions per month. By contrast, this is more than double the number of re-directions in Melbourne.

“Empty containers destined for one ECP, or for direct wharf de-hire, are suddenly re-directed to another location, causing significant planning difficulties for transport operators who must adjust their fleet and job allocations at the last minute.


“These re-directions are occurring solely to suit the shipping lines that want the empty containers sent to a specific location for their next use. To make matters worse, the lack of sufficient operational notice of these re-directions means that trucks with a valid ECP arrival notification, based on the original de-hire location specified by the shipping line, are being turned away because a re-direction has been put in place last minute.”


“This results in futile truck trips, added truck travel, more one-way under-utilisation of trucks, the need to constantly rearrange empty containers stacked in transport yards, and de-hire time delays.”


Unrealistic container detention timeframes & claims

Despite the increased delays in managing import empty container de-hires effectively, there is no incentive for shipping lines to extend container detention-free time to importers.


Container detention time restrictions are more likely to be exceeded as a result of the current delays and inefficiencies in Sydney.


“That is particularly perverse,” Mr Chambers noted. “Many transport operators apply business rules with their importer / forwarder customers requiring adequate business-day notification that import containers are ready for empty de-hire.


“In the current circumstances in Sydney, made worse also by the fumigation delays caused by the widespread measures to address the Brown Marmorated Stink Bug (BMSB) biosecurity threat, it is not unrealistic for import containers to be taking more than 15 to 20 days from the date of discharge to be able to be returned empty.”


“Container detention claims prior to that are equally unrealistic.” concluded Neil Chambers.


CTAA Alliance companies are discussing the current delays and inefficiencies with the ECP in Sydney, shipping lines, NSW Ports, Transport for NSW and the NSW Government.


Feel free to contact your BRi Customer Service Representative should you have any further queries or concerns in relation to this matter.


Keeping you updated,

BRi Customer Service Team

Back to News Page

News Archives