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According to ACCC chairman Graeme Samuel, the report shows that the Australian community has benefited from reforms that commenced a decade ago.“During this time, demand for stevedoring services has doubled,” he said.“The cost of using stevedoring services has fallen in real terms. “In turn, the stevedoring businesses have become more productive and profitable, even during a period when significant expenditure on assets was made.”Samuel says that questions remain about the extent to which the stevedores actually compete to win each other’s business, which is important when looking forward 10 years and considering the high rates of demand that are forecast to continue. “The ACCC urges state governments and port planners to ask themselves: what role can competition play in meeting Australia’s future stevedoring needs?” said Samuel.“While some ports are well progressed in testing the market for new competitors, others seem to have settled for the convenience of the current duopoly.”With a third container terminal not due to commence operation until around 2017, Australia’s largest port, in Melbourne, has fallen behind the ports of Sydney and Brisbane which expect to be operating their new facilities by 2012.“Any unnecessary delays in establishing additional container terminal facilities could result in lost opportunities for greater competition,” said Samuel.“The future challenge is in coping with growth while ensuring that the incentives for improving efficiency are maintained. “More intense levels of competition can not only improve efficiency but may also result in a greater share of the benefits being passed on to users and the wider community that rely on the movement of goods into and out of Australian ports.” The report will be available on the ACCC’s website at www.accc.gov.au under Publications.