5368.0.55.018 - Information Paper: Experimental Statistics on International Shipping Container Movements, 2009-10  
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The ABS produces a wide range of detailed merchandise trade export and import statistics based on documentation exporters, importers and their agents report to Customs and Border Protection. These statistics are based on international statistical standards set out in the United Nations' publication International Merchandise Trade Statistics: Concepts and Definitions (Series M, No 52, Rev.2).

These statistics record goods which add or subtract from the stock of material resources of Australia by entering (imports) or leaving (exports) its Customs territory. Goods simply transported through Australia (goods in transit), or temporarily admitted or withdrawn (e.g. exhibitions, special equipment used for a short period, goods under operational leases or goods for repair) are not included in Australia's merchandise trade statistics. The goods temporarily admitted or withdrawn are presented as non-merchandise statistics.

The merchandise trade statistics are the main source of information for the goods component of Australia's balance of payments. However, as the balance of payments focuses on transactions between residents and non-residents the two sets of statistics can differ. For example, if an Australian resident purchases goods that do not enter Australia's customs territory the transaction would be included in the balance of payments but not merchandise trade statistics.

Stakeholders interested in international container statistics are primarily interested in the transport of goods regardless of whether they are in transit, temporarily admitted or withdrawn, or traded between residents and non-residents. Statistics on international shipping container movements apply to all goods entering or leaving Australia's territory in a container and therefore have a different scope to merchandise trade and balance of payments statistics.

In addition, the scope of the international shipping container movement statistics differ from Australia's merchandise trade and non-merchandise trade statistics because merchandise trade and non-merchandise trade statistics include both container and non-container trade.

Movements of empty containers are outside the scope of the international shipping container movement statistics, as empty containers are not counted in the dataset provided by Customs and Border Protection.

International shipping container movement statistics complement a limited range of other transport statistics produced by the ABS including:

  • Survey of Motor Vehicle Use (cat. no. 9208.0) comprises estimates for private and commercial vehicles registered for road use with a motor vehicle registration authority; by state/territory of registration, area of operation, number of vehicles, total and average kilometres travelled, vehicle usage, fuel consumption and load carried. Bus statistics include kilometres travelled by main type of service.
  • Motor Vehicle Census (cat. no. 9309.0) presents for each state and territory, the number of vehicles on register by type of vehicle (passenger vehicles, light commercial vehicles, rigid trucks, articulated trucks, non-freight carrying trucks, buses and motor cycles), year of manufacture, make, gross vehicle mass and fuel type.

The ABS does not currently produce freight statistics but previously has produced:
  • Freight Movements, Summary, March 2001 (cat. no. 9220.0) provides statistics on tonnes and tonne-kilometres of freight moved in Australia between selected statistical divisions by mode (rail, sea, air and selected road). Information on tonnes moved by broad commodity grouping (based on the Australian Transport Freight Commodity Classification) and dissections of freight classified by liquid bulk, solid bulk, containerised, dangerous or refrigerated are also included.
  • Experimental Estimates of Freight Movements, September 1995 (cat. no. 9217.0) provides statistics on tonnes of freight moved in Australia between selected statistical divisions by mode (road, rail, sea and air). Information on tonnes moved by broad commodity grouping (based on the Australian Transport Freight Commodity Classification), and dissections of freight classified by bulk, dangerous, refrigerated or containerised are also included.

A range of information is currently available on shipping containers including information from various port authorities and associations and reports produced by the Bureau of Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Economics (BITRE). These include:
  • Port authorities produce statistics including container volume through ports for TEU, key commodities and country of origin/destination. These data are available in trade and annual report publications as well as via electronic spreadsheets and databases. There can be differences in the way different ports define different aspects of these statistics.
  • Ports Australia is an association representing the interests of port and marine authorities in Australia. It collates and produces data on Australia's port industry, including trade statistics covering cargo, vessel visits by size and type to Australian ports, employment data and export tonnages of selected commodities.
  • Waterline a statistical report published twice a year by BITRE, reports statistics on trends in container handling productivity on the waterfront in Australia as well as the cost of importing and exporting containers. It covers both the unloading of container ships and the transport of containers from container terminals. This includes information on freight movements on both the wharf side and the landside of five Australian major port terminals (Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Adelaide and Fremantle) plus stevedoring productivity and landside performance indicators.

The range of information currently available does not provide the full range of information required by stakeholders. This is partially due to the lack of common definitions used across ports and the inability to cross classify the existing container information on the same basis as the commodity detail presented in ABS Merchandise trade statistics.

There is a strong requirement from both government and industry stakeholders that the currently available information be complemented by statistics derived from information already reported to Customs and Border Protection.