Brisbane Marine Pilots: ACCC denies authorisation for exclusive pilotage agreement

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission today issed a determination denying authorisation for an exclusive pilotage services agreement at the Port of Brisbane.

Under the agreement, Maritime Safety Queensland (MSQ) would be required to acquire all pilotage services at the port from Brisbane Marine Pilots Pty Ltd (BMP) until 31 December 2013.

Marine pilots guide large vessels within port waters by advising on vessel manoeuvring, tug numbers and positioning.  They are usually mariners with command experience and comprehensive port-specific knowledge and skills.

"The ACCC is not convinced that the exclusive agreement delivers the public benefits BMP has claimed," ACCC chairman Mr Graeme Samuel said.

The ACCC acknowledges that the preference at most ports around the world is to have a single party supply pilotage.

"However, if MSQ wishes to employ BMP as the sole supplier of marine pilots at the port, it is able to do so without the need for an exclusive agreement that forecloses any possibility of other providers being able to compete to offer their services."

Key industry bodies have opposed the agreement on the basis it unnecessarily restricts competition.

Authorisation provides immunity from court action for conduct that might otherwise raise concerns under the competition provisions of the Trade Practices Act 1974.  Broadly, the ACCC may grant an authorisation when it is satisfied that the public benefit from the conduct outweighs any public detriment.

Click here for the ACCC Final Determination dated 3.12.2010.