APSA Conference

Oceanbridge and the APSA Conference 2022

Written by Shanon Gould, Victoria Trade Manager

Jonathan Cousins (Jono) and I set off from Melbourne on Tuesday morning in the pouring rain, and we were hoping the clouds would burn off as we headed into the agricultural countryside. Following the Hume Highway (a long and well-built, if slightly boring road) we gradually made our way past small country towns and truck stops as we chatted the kilometres away.

As we started heading through Albury/Wodonga and its surrounds, we started seeing glimpses of the bright yellow canola fields and we started getting more and more excited about the conference we were heading to.

The APSA (Australian Peak Shippers Association) and the FTA (Freight & Trade Alliance) together forms an influential advocacy alliance that ensures all its members are at the forefront of emerging supply chain issues. The annual conference (which had been delayed multiple times due to COVID-19) is an annual event that brings together exporters, importers, regional producers, logistics providers, and port / government officials together under one roof to discuss prevalent issues within the supply chain industry.

Due to our long drive, we, unfortunately, missed out on the Riverina Intermodal Freight and Logistics Hub tour, but on Tuesday night, we were welcomed with warm arms and flowing alcohol into the Riverine Club where we got to mix and mingle with our fellow delegates.

After a (relatively) early night of much networking, we headed ‘home’ (to the Wagga Wagga RSL) for a much-needed sleep before we started bright and early the next day.

The APSA conference (held on Wednesday 31st August) consisted of 4 sessions: Infrastructure, Port and Shipping, Regulatory Reform, and Innovation.

The first session, Infrastructure, had speakers from Manildra, Transport for NSW, the Port of Melbourne, SCT Logistics, and VISY Logistics, there to discuss the various projects that have been and are due to be completed. Discussed was the huge amount of infrastructure put into roads and ports to accommodate for the current and projected growth, new ports being developed in NSW and VIC, and projects from SCT and VISY who are building transport and rail hubs. The importance of rail was a resounding theme (fun fact: container road transport has 16 x the emissions of container rail transport) and the need for infrastructure to enable more rail.

The second session, Ports and Shipping, hosted speakers from NSW Ports, ANL/CMA-CGM, APSA, GrainCorp, and National Freight & Supply chain Strategy/DSV to discuss whether market forces will deliver intermodal, port, and shipping capacity to meet the needs of exporters. Discussed here was the huge number of agricultural commodities that are exported from the region. With the images of yellow canola fields in our mind’s eye, we were not surprised to hear that there are significant issues in the market with bumper grain, cotton, and canola crops with a lack of container supply and infrastructure to meet the demand. It was a sobering look into the issues that our agricultural exporters and service providers face with these commodities only being suitable for 20’ containers and, with Australia being an island nation (and predominantly importing in 40’ containers), there is a massive container imbalance issue which will be the forefront of discussions for many years to come.

Session three was hosted by Mick Koegh (ACCC) and Stephen King (Productivity Commissioner) who led an exceptionally engaging conversation around Regulatory Reform. Mick discussed compliance and enforcement (and disruption in supply chains), Part X of the Competition and Consumer Act, and how can industry assist. Stephen discussed Australia’s maritime Logistics Systems draft report (albeit waiting on the formal report to be released in September), industry submissions and next steps, international shipping trends, and the scope of potential government intervention.

The fourth and final session for the conference was Innovation, with speakers from DAFF, the Port of Newcastle, Malec Terminal Logistics, ASCA, Treasury Wine Estates, and BSM Global discussing the innovation we are seeing in response to ongoing challenges. This was interesting to hear who and what is being done to innovate in various fields – whether it be buying farmland in other countries, engaging with and exporting to other countries if a peak market is no longer viable, relocations to other sites, terminal growth, or a total pivot on a market for example from timber to alternative commodities. It was also interesting to hear how others have weathered the storms of geopolitical tensions, the pandemic, and everything in between.

With a resounding theme of “resilience” being discussed across every panel, it was fascinating hearing from all the different stakeholders within the industry.

As it was succinctly put – ‘shipping is the beating heart of global trade’ and never was it felt more completely and fully during the pandemic when supply chains stopped, were overloaded, and everyone in our industry put their heart, soul, and time and keeping our country fed, clothed, well stocked, and trading when the rest of the world ground to a halt.

Thank you to everyone for your hospitality, for everything you have done, and for everything you continue to do to keep the Land of Plenty producing, importing, exporting, and everything in between, and thank you to the FTA & APSA for a rewarding conference.

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