The German chief of one of the world's biggest logistics and transport companies has blasted falling productivity on the Fremantle docks, saying slow container movements through WA's biggest port was costing DB Schenker's local operations.
DB Schenker global chairman Thomas Lieb, whose company plays a lead role on Chevron's $43 billion Gorgon LNG project, also backed more private investment in ports and associated infrastructure to help squeeze the most out of the mining boom.
"In Fremantle . . . when it comes to movement of containers, there are tremendous detention charges (payments for ships being unnecessarily delayed), so that is an area of concern," Dr Lieb told _WestBusiness _yesterday on a visit to Perth.
Dr Lieb's comments come as the State Government fights fires on a number of fronts at the key harbour, which is nearing capacity.
State-run Fremantle Ports remains in bitter negotiations with the Maritime Union Australia a year after talks began on new rosters and wages. The impasse led to a four-day strike last month which the port claims cost WA $3 million a day in lost shipments, although this was disputed by the MUA.
Last week, magnate Len Buckeridge took the WA Government to court seeking $1 billion in damages for delays to an agreement signed in 2000 for a rival port he wants to build in Kwinana.
And the Federal Government's advisory body Infrastructure Australia recently called for a mass sale of government-owned assets, including ports, to raise funds for a wave of new investment in infrastructure. The WA Government has rejected Infrastructure Australia's push, but Dr Lieb said private investment had worked well in ports such as Hamburg. He also downplayed the worst fears over delays at the Gorgon project, with Chevron due to give a project-defining update this quarter, saying that one of DB Schenker's "most important contracts ever" was on track.
He congratulated the Federal Government for recent changes to improve the ease of 457 visas for foreign workers, saying that the inexorable rise of the middle class in Asia would underpin the resource boom and make foreign workers vital to fill jobs vacant because of local skills shortages.