Maritime & Transport / Rail

Productivity of intermodal freight a balancing act: AusIntermodal 2013

The 13th AusIntermodal conference was held earlier this month, and the discussions from the range of speakers varied from the new changes to the Customs Act (1901) by the head of Australian Customers and Border Protection Service, Michael Pezzullo, to creating global standards for the productivity of the supply chain. 

intermodal conference sydney

Experts discussed the need for governments to focus on a multi-mode approach to addressing the future freight task. Priscilla Radice, Strategy Manager at the Port of Brisbane reflected on the needs of the future to balance the freight network by utilising rail.

“It’s no longer a question on what we do; we need to move more freight to rail in order to be more efficient.”

Priscilla Radice, port of Brisbane

One of the stand-out sessions of the event was the presentation from Mark Pearson, the Deputy CEO of the ACCC who discussed the need to increase competition in intermodal freight.

“I’d just like to make a few remarks from the perspective of the ACCC as a productivity regulator – we all know that as a nation we have a large and growing transport task. Infrastructure drives productivity growth but there’s not a lot of discussion on the economic regulation of business. There is an importance that the ACCC delivers policy and then it is enforced.”

Mark discussed the need for balanced competition with effective regulation, stating that a mix of the two would provide the best results when moving into the future freight task.

“Competition encourages efficiency and innovation and efficient markets are the aim – we would never say that we are coming in and replicating competition – regulation is always best”

As is the case with many port related events, a lot of the discussion at AusIntermodal focused on the most efficient ways of moving more freight from the road to our rail networks. According to Ian Hunt, CEO of the new Moorebank Intermodal Company, moving more freight to rail in the Sydney district will significantly increase productivity.

“85% percent of freight in the Sydney metropolitan is moved by road and 15% moved by rail. Using trains instead of trucks on these long distances will significantly reduce costs”

Priscilla Radice also discussed the need for achieving balanced modal share with integrated land use strategies.

“When looking at the land you need to look at the transport planning around that use. We’ve been spending a lot of time modelling and looking at our freight movements. Making transport decisions that extend well into the future require forward thinking and political backbone.”

Peter Koning, General Manager of the Australian & New Zealand Division of Network Rail Consulting discussed the idea that rail is often left behind because of the expenses involved with running rail infrastructure.

Peter Koning Chairman CILTA NSW on budget investment in rail

“Rail infrastructure fails sometimes because it is an incredibly expensive asset and what rails fail to do is invest. Rail is incredibly efficient when it’s steel upon steel – when it becomes inefficient is getting the goods off rail onto the road. “

But Peter discussed a few ways that savings can be made elsewhere by utilising the network in a more efficient manner.

“It is possible to combine a passenger and a freight network – passengers through the day and freight at night. This increases the economic case for high speed rail.”

“If we could do one thing what should we be doing? Prepare to break some legs to get the rail shift done and prepare to set up frameworks, once you’ve done that it will support infrastructure investment.”

However, it was one of the final speakers at the event that gave the take home message. Nicolaj Noes, the Managing Director for the Australian Maersk Line division, who discussed the increases of beef exports to China, and how Maersk was able to prepare their network for the spike in trade.

Nicolaj Noes

“It pretty much came over night that beef shipments to China took off, no one prepared us and no one noticed it in order for us to prepare our logistics network. If you can do it for this or can do it for other things, that’s one of the advantages of being an island – we can pretty much decide where we want to go from the port; do you want to go left or do you want to go right?”

“What are we doing to facilitate intermodal efficiencies? We’ve developed liners that are able to come anywhere into Australia. If it requires our depots to be open 24/7 we are willing to bring this to the table for discussion.”

On a final note, amid all the discussion of road and rail and driving efficiencies, Noes finished his presentation by stating “the waterside of trade for Australia is in good hands.”

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