NSW Empty Container Study

A key goal of the NSW Freight and Ports Plan 2018-2023 is to improve the flow of freight through trade gateways and specifically improve the movement of empty containers into and out of Port Botany.

The Empty Container Supply Chain Study demonstrates how the NSW Government is working together with the freight industry to reach a common goal in improved efficiency.

About the Study

Empty containers make up the majority of export containers from Port Botany. Current inefficiencies in the NSW empty container supply chain result in an estimated additional cost to the supply chain of $49 million per year.

Transport for NSW has collaborated with industry to deliver a comprehensive study into issues impacting the supply chain, which include empty container redirections as a consequence of empty container park capacity constraints; redirections given without minimum notice periods; and inconsistencies in the use of Electronic Data Interchanges by shipping lines which add unnecessary cost and complexity to operations.

The Study contains key actions to improve the efficiency of the empty container supply chain, including technology upgrades, improved data sharing, increasing ECP capacity and the greater utilisation of rail.

Empty Container Working Group update

The Empty Container Working Group was established in July 2020 and has met regularly since then. The focus of the group includes:

  • examining issues related to the management of empty containers
  • sharing information and developing performance measures to provide a clearer picture of supply chain issues
  • identifying opportunities for additional empty container storage capacity and investigating other ideas, such as trials of new equipment or technology which could reduce pressure on empty container parks
  • making recommendations and co-developing solutions that can be implemented by industry on a voluntary basis.

The Working Group includes representatives from shipping lines, stevedores, empty container park operators, road transport operators and key freight industry groups.

A priority for the Working Group is to make improvements to the supply chain. Data sharing and reporting protocols have been established, with early action targeted towards increasing the provision of electronic information in empty container park booking systems and monitoring empty container redirections to reduce administrative burden for transport operators.

Recent events have increased stress on the empty container supply chain. Trade fluctuations resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic; weather events and industrial action at stevedore terminals have impacted on the ability to service vessels and evacuate empty containers. This has created a significant build-up of empty containers which need to be addressed urgently to ensure freight can continue to move in and out of Port Botany.

In response to recent events, the Working Group is separately looking at short term initiatives that could take pressure off the system, such as increasing empty container stacking heights at existing facilities, and options for additional storage capacity.

Exporters in regional NSW are also being encouraged to work with shipping lines and empty container parks to store suitable empty containers on site to help reduce the backlog near the port. The Working Group will continue to engage with stakeholders across the container freight supply chain, from shipping lines to cargo owners, to assist in implementing practical, whole-of-supply chain solutions.

If you have any questions please contact freight@transport.nsw.gov.au 

View the Study and its recommendations

Please email us at freight@transport.nsw.gov.au if you require further information.