TasPorts has defended increasing freight charges for customers during the COVID-19 pandemic on the last day of government business scrutiny hearings on Friday.
The business this year made a decision to increase freight charges by 2.9 per cent from June 30.
TasPorts chief executive Anthony Donald said low berthing rates and correlating low export volumes meant the business could not build efficiencies through economies of scale.
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"We have fixed asset costs and relatively speaking low asset utilisation across 11 ports," he said.
Mr Donald said the business wanted to work with customers to grow freight volumes.
"Whether or not that extends to a reduction in a rate per tonne of export ... I would expect that is our objection," he said.
Mr Donald said linking freight charge increases to the Consumer Price Index did not account for the full cost of the service, including labour and infrastructure costs.
He said finalised Enterprise Bargaining Agreements included a 2.7 per cent wage increase for employees.
Mr Donald said being an infrastructure-based business, a lot of costs were linked to material supply.
"Cost escalation in materials and labour associated with infrastructure development is probably around 20 per cent," he said.
"We selected to pass on a 2.9 per cent rate increase.
"We believe that was very appropriate and determined by a rigorous assessment."
TasPort's masterplan involves significant developments at the Devonport and Burnie ports.
Labor's Josh Willie questioned how TasPorts had the capacity to fund the projects.
Mr Donald said the level of debt held by the company had historically been small for an infrastructure business.
"It's important that we deliver infrastructure that is supported by sound commercial business cases," he said.
"Debt is only scary if it isn't appropriately managed and there is no commercial basis for taking out that debt.
"Our plan is optimistically that we will continue to look for further debt for large infrastructure investment to support growth of freight volumes."
Revenue for TasPorts in 2020-21 was down to $107.1 million from $118.9 million the year before.
Freight revenue went down from $6.9 million to $3.6 million while seaport revenue went from $75.5 million to $71.1 million.
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