Strategic Interaction amongst Australia’s East Coast Ports
Australia’s principal container ports, located in its state capitals, are owned and operated by state authorities that largely return profits from port operations to state governments. Since they govern the volumes of trade in most merchandise, they command immense influence over the openness and flexibility of the national economy. In this study, we estimate the elasticities of substitution between services of ports in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne. We also examine the pricing of port services to estimate the extent of their interaction, from which we derive conjectural variations parameters to assess the actual and potential levels of price collusion. The results confirm that there is considerable potential for destructive oligopoly behaviour and that pricing by the apparently isolated Port of Melbourne has been effectively controlled by price-cap regulation. The services of the ports of Sydney and Brisbane are comparatively substitutable, however. Although their regulation appears to be less restrictive, this substitutability appears to result in some level of competition, which aids in the control of pricing.
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