A number of major media outlets have reported that the government is being “urged to act” as retailers and manufacturers face delays, shortages and extra shipping charges as a result of UK’s gridlocked ports.
There has been a notable increase in reports in the media during the last week detailing the growing discontent from UK businesses about the disruption at key UK container ports.
The spike in imports caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and stockpiling ahead of the UK’s transition to Brexit has resulted in bottlenecks at ports. The delays at the major ports including Felixstowe, Southampton and London Gateway are now being felt acutely in a number of industries.
In recent weeks the congestion at Felixstowe has prompted a growing number of vessels to “cut and run” – either partially unloading or missing UK port calls altogether to offload consignments at Antwerp, Zeebrugge and Rotterdam – as carriers avoid the disruption in the UK.
A growing number of businesses are now complaining about the “intolerable” disruption at UK ports. The Building industry has reported shortages of power tools, timber and roof tiles – a large number of retailers have said that they are struggling to get stock into stores in time for the Christmas rush. And this last week car manufacturer Honda announced that it has temporarily halted production at its Swindon factory because of “transport-related parts delays”.
BBC News reports that the problems at the UK’s container ports have been building up for weeks and it is the Covid outbreak has caused problems. After the lockdown in the first half of the year, the volume of goods being imported has been much higher than normal. This was exacerbated when thousands of containers of PPE imported on behalf of the government were simply left within the port for weeks adding to the gridlock. BBC News states that “Congestion at England’s ports is now so bad that shipping firms have limited the amount of cargo they will bring to the UK.” Read the full story here.
According to Sky News, Honda has suspended production at its UK car plant after transport related delays to the delivery of parts. Sky New states that “The Japanese car maker told workers that it would have to pause work on Wednesday, but would restart as soon as possible. It comes as logistics bosses call on the government to help clear congestion at the UK’s container ports”. Sky News also reports that on Wednesday, the leaders of the nine logistics trade groups, including the British Ports Association and the Road Haulage Association, asked the government for help and warned that problems could persist “for some months”, increasing the potential for disruption during the vital first weeks of 2021 following the transition out of the EU’s single market and customs union on 31 December. Read the full story here.
PFE recently informed customers of the significant congestion occurring at Felixstowe port which has been struggling to manage the increase in import volumes resulting from the key Christmas trading period for many weeks. The volumes are greater than usual because stores are catching up as a result of the spring lockdown. The additional pressure of retailers also stockpiling ahead of the Brexit deadline is only exacerbating the situation. While Felixstowe is being reported as the main problem, as it handles 40% of all the shipping containers coming into and out of the UK, disruption is also being experienced across all UK’s main ports. There has also been a knock on effect at London Gateway and Southampton ports, which have been absorbing diversions from Felixstowe. All major UK ports are now overloaded and as a result are experiencing congestion at the terminal and container yard which has resulted in operational delays throughout the UK supply chain as well as carriers adding congestion surcharges on shipments.
Regrettably these challenges to the UK’s ports are set to continue and the situation is unlikely to improve until well into the New Year. We will keep you updated on any further developments and would like to thank all of our customers once again for their understanding during this challenging period.