VITERRA will have its port operations in the Adelaide port zone exempted from the Federal Government's port access code for the first time.
After a draft determination was handed down by the Australian Consumer and Competition Commission last year to allow Viterra exemptions for its Outer Harbor and Inner Harbour facilities at Port Adelaide, the finding was officially ratified this week.
However, Viterra's applications to have its Wallaroo and Port Giles facilities on the Yorke Peninsula exempted were rejected.
In a statement Viterra said it was disappointed with the findings regarding the Yorke Peninsula ports.
"Granting exemption to all our ports would have provided benefits to South Australian growers and the industry by reducing costs and improving the flexibility and efficiency of our network," a Viterra spokesperson said.
Viterra also has exemption applications in for its Thevenard and Port Lincoln ports, with a finding expected to be handed down by July.
In practice the exemptions mean Viterra will no longer be subject to the Code's requirements not to discriminate against exporters seeking access to its facilities, and will not be subject to access-related dispute resolution processes at Inner Harbour and Outer Harbor.
"While Viterra is the dominant port service provider for South Australia's bulk grain export market, we believe their Inner Harbour and Outer Harbor facilities now experience sufficient competition to justify a reduction in regulation," ACCC deputy chair Mick Keogh said.
"We are satisfied that Viterra's Port Adelaide terminals face adequate competitive constraint from three main sources: nearby third-party terminals, Port Adelaide's containerised export, and domestic grains markets."
Cargill has invested in a mobile ship loader to load ships out of Berth 20 at Port Adelaide, which it hopes will eventually be able to process 300,000 tonnes of grain annually, while the South Australian domestic market is also growing on the back of expansion in industries such as lot-feeding and poultry.
As part of the exemption Viterra will also not require ACCC approval of its capacity allocation systems, and will no longer be required to publish certain information about expected capacity or bulk grain stocks held at these port terminals, although it will still have to follow these requirements at its Port Giles and Wallaroo facilities.
The Port Access Code of Conduct commenced on 30 September 2014 and regulates port terminal service providers across the country to ensure that exporters of bulk wheat have fair and transparent access to port terminal facilities.
Where appropriate, the ACCC may determine a service provider to be an 'exempt service provider' at a specified port terminal.
These are the first exemptions Viterra has received in relation to their port terminal facilities under the Code.
It means Australia's 'Big Three' bulk handlers, GrainCorp, Viterra and CBH all have exemptions for at least some of their facilities.
GrainCorp has received exemptions from the Code in relation to a number of sites including its Carrington facility at Newcastle, Port Kembla, Fisherman Island at Brisbane and Geelong.
The company hasfacilities in Queensland and also at Portland in Victoria that do not have exemptions and are therefore subject to all parts of the Code.
All CBH's ports are exempt, via a ruling by the Agriculture Minister, due to the company's co-operative status.