Misuse of Market Power Alleged for Australia's TasPorts
The Australian Competition & Consumer Commission (ACCC) has instituted Federal Court proceedings against Tasmanian Ports Corporation Pty Ltd (TasPorts) in its first case taken under the amended misuse of market power provision.
The ACCC alleges that TasPorts, which owns all but one port in northern Tasmania, sought to stop a new entrant, Engage Marine Tasmania Pty Ltd, from competing effectively with TasPorts’ marine pilotage and towage businesses.
The ACCC alleges that TasPorts prevented Engage Marine from expanding in Tasmania by failing to provide long term berths for its tug boats and refusing to place Engage Marine on the shipping schedule, which is necessary for it to provide towage services.
The ACCC also alleges that TasPorts has prevented Engage Marine from providing pilotage services at Port Latta by failing to provide training to Engage Marine’s employees, which only they could provide, and demanding that Engage Marine’s sole customer pay about $750,000 a year in fees to TasPorts after the customer stopped contracting with TasPorts.
TasPorts is a corporation wholly owned by the State of Tasmania. It owns all the ports in northern Tasmania, except Port Latta, and supplies marine pilotage and towage services in those ports. Generally, ships greater than 35 meters in length are required to hire a marine pilot when entering port waters, and may be required to hire one or more tug boats.
TasPorts has responded saying: “The proceeding concerns issues that arose approximately two years ago relating to pilotage and towage operations at Tasmanian ports. The issues raised by the ACCC are complex, based on unique situations; they involve a law that has not yet been tested...
“TasPorts has cooperated with the ACCC in its investigation. TasPorts strenuously denies that it has breached competition law as alleged by the ACCC. TasPorts will vigorously defend the ACCC’s allegations.”