The Recent Challenges for the UK’s Ports

The Recent Challenges for the UK’s Ports
October 12, 2018 Hannah Marshallsay

The last month has been a testing time for ports in the UK with Southampton being particularly hard hit. We review the significance of the many factors currently impacting the productivity of the UK’s ports which is challenging the supply chain.

It’s a complex situation with many intertwining factors that has led to difficulty at the UK’s ports and in particularly the current situation at Southampton. Delays are being suffered as a result of many external factors including vessel diversions, port congestion and shortage of truck drivers as the crisis in the UK haulage sector tightens its grip.

Impact of rerouting from Felixstowe

There have been many reported problems in the press of delays at UK’s ports in the last few months, which started with Felixstowe’s teething issues migrating to its new IT system. While these issues have mainly been resolved now, it meant that many shipments destined for the UK’s largest port were rerouted to London Gateway and Southampton. This has led to an increase in vessels using Southampton’s port.

Impact of adverse weather conditions in China

Coupled with the rerouting of vessels, the recent typhoons across the whole of China resulted in vessels coming into port off the usual schedule. Because of scheduling changes, vessels have not been able to stay in port for the usual duration and therefore have had to leave in some cases without fully unloading their containers.

At the same time as vessels being forced to leave before unloading, they have also been unable to load all empty containers at port. This has resulted in very high stack levels at Southampton Port. The unseasonably large number of empty containers, combined with the normal pre-Christmas peak, has increased stack density and resulted in slower than normal productivity. The reduced productivity of the port then creates a vicious circle of more empty containers stacking up day by day.

Impact of reduced haulage capacity

The UK road haulage market continues to face ongoing challenges as a result of a general shortage of vehicles, drivers and rail availability, plus increased cargo volumes. The reduction in haulage availability has resulted in delays on import collections particularly in this seasonal peak, which exacerbates the challenges to productivity at ports. At Southampton Port the lack of haulage means that boxes are staying on their terminal for at least a day and a half longer than normal. Reliability and punctuality of all export collections and import deliveries has been impacted and these issues are likely to continue as many are ongoing or long-term as well as being seasonal.

The impact for PFE’s customers

For our customers we manage to reduce the impact by planning ahead. We also employ our own drivers and have high driver retention rates as we recognise their value to our business. As such we are best placed to ensure that your shipments are collected and distributed in a timely manner with delays being limited as much as possible.

However the challenges that are felt across all of the UK’s ports must be recognised and it is expected that they will continue throughout the peak season until later in the year. We will of course keep you updated with any further developments.

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