The Ports Management Act and Ports Management Regulations establish the Commission as the regulator for the access and pricing regime for the Port of Darwin.

The Commission’s role is to regulate prices for the Port of Darwin. The regulatory framework specifically states that the Commission must use price monitoring as the form of price regulation. Further, price regulation only applies to prescribed services. Under the legislation, the Commission has made a Price Determination which is consistent with the regulatory framework about the charges fixed by a private port operator for prescribed services.

Changes to Tariffs for Standard Charges for Prescribed Services for the Port of Darwin 

The private port operator, Darwin Port Operations Pty Ltd (DPO) sets tariffs for the standard charges for prescribed services that it provides to port users. Prescribed services include: providing access for vessels to the port, supplying berths, providing amenities for loading and unloading of vessels, pilotage services, and allowing entry of persons and vehicles to any land which port facilities are located. It does not include storage, stevedoring and the Marine Supply Base.  

Under the regime, DPO must provide 20 days’ notice to the Commission about any proposed changes to tariffs. DPO is also required to publish an amended price list on its website 10 days before the amended tariffs take effect.   

On 11 July 2017, DPO notified the Commission that it intended to increase a number of its tariffs for prescribed services, as well as introducing a new tariff for large vessels using the Bladin Channel. The amended tariffs commenced on 1 August 2017 and are available on DPO’s website under Port Tariffs. DPO has met its obligations pursuant to the Ports Management Regulations and Price Determination, as it has provided 20 days’ notice to the Commission and approximately one month’s notice to stakeholders.

When performing its price monitoring function, the Commission may use benchmarking or annual price increases linked to an indexation factor. While a number of different indexes were considered by the Commission, the annual Consumer Price Index (CPI) is generally preferred by regulators. It is appropriate to use either Darwin, or the eight capital cities CPI. Generally regional and national CPIs are relatively close, but for the period from March 2016 to March 2017, Darwin’s CPI rose by 0.5% compared to a national increase of 2.1%.  

In general, on 1 August 2017, the majority of the charges for prescribed services for standard services for the Port of Darwin rose by 1.1%. This is between Darwin’s and the national CPI increases discussed above. This is the first time DPO has increased its tariffs since becoming the private port operator in late 2015.

The Bulk Liquid Fuels Inbound Wharfage tariff rose by 3.6%. DPO has informed the Commission that the reason for this higher increase was so that DPO receive an acceptable rate of return for the Bulk Liquids Fuel Berth infrastructure upgrades that it has undertaken.

DPO has introduced a new tariff, the Bladin Channel Port Dues Levy. This tariff is for vessels larger than 20,000 gross tonne accessing the Bladin Channel. DPO has advised the Commission that the purpose of the new tariff is to provide a recovery mechanism for investment in pilotage, harbour control and management facilities to support the safe management of large vessel traffic. Large vessel traffic is expected to increase once INPEX starts operation in late 2017.

The Commission will be undertaking a review of the access and pricing regime for the Port of Darwin which will commence later this year. If you would like to be involved in this review, please let the Commission know so that you can be added to the Ports Review Communications List. The Commission can be contacted on (08) 8999 5480 or utilities.commission@nt.gov.au.

Notice of Making of a Determination

Prescribed Port Services – Port of Darwin – Final Price Determination

On 16 February 2016, the Utilities Commission issued a final price determination in accordance with section 132 of the Ports Management Act and section 20(1)(a) of the Utilities Commission Act.

The Commission is required by section 17(3) of the Ports Management Regulations to make a determination no later than three months after the appointment of the private port operator. It relates to the charges fixed by the private port operator (Darwin Port Operations Pty Limited) for the provision of prescribed services at the Port of Darwin and the manner in which the Commission will monitor those prices.

The Final Determination is available on the Utilities Commission website or by contacting the Commission on utilities.commission@nt.gov.au or +61 8 8999 5480.

Draft Price Determination

On 17 December 2015, the Commission released a draft determination which the Commission is authorised to make under section 132 of the Ports Management Act and section 20(1)(a) of the Utilities Commission Act. It relates to the charges fixed by Darwin Port Operations Pty Ltd (the private port operator) for the provision of prescribed service at the Port of Darwin.

The Commission is required by section 17(3) of the Ports Management Regulations to make a determination no later than three months after the appointment of the private port operator.

The Commission must provide a copy of a draft determination at least 30 days prior to the making of a final determination to the Minister, the private port operator and other stakeholders the Commission consider would likely be affected by the determination.

The Commission invited interested parties to make submissions on the draft determination by Wednesday 13 January 2016. The Commission intends to issue the final determination by 15 February 2016.

The Commission notes that this is the first determination for the Port of Darwin under the Ports Management Act.

The Ports Management Act requires that a determination cannot have effect for a period of more than three years. The Commission also notes that it must commence a review of Part 11 of the Ports Management Act, including the ongoing need for regulatory oversight and form of regulatory oversight, within two years from the appointment of the private port operator. For these reasons, the draft determination includes a term of three years from the date of commencement.

Section 23 of the Utilities Commission Act makes provision for the Commission to enforce a determination. Section 121 of the Ports Management Act also requires the Commission to report annually to the Minister on any instances of non-compliance by a private port operator with a determination, with such a report to be tabled in the Legislative Assembly.

The draft determination is available here ​or by contacting the Commission office.

Dr Patrick Walsh
Utilities Commissioner
December 2015

Submissions should be directed to:
GPO Box 915
DARWIN NT 0801
Telephone: +61 8 8999 5480
Email: utilities.commission@nt.gov.au

Submissions Received

The Commission recieved two submissions on the Draft Price Determination. One submision was identitfied by the submitting stakeholder as commercial-in-confidence.

Submission – Department of Treasury and Finance

The Commission will consider all submissions prior to making its final determination in February 2016.

Approach to Price Monitoring

To assist the port operator and relevant stakeholders in informing the Commission’s approach to price regulation, the Commission will publish a formal draft Statement of Approach outlining how it will undertake the price monitoring function, including the manner and processes it intends to use. The Commission will consult with the port operator and other relevant stakeholders prior to the finalisation of a Statement of Approach. 

The Commission intends to consult on a draft Statement of Approach to Price Monitoring in early 2016.