Weekly Update – 12.11.2021

Weekly Update – 12.11.2021
November 12, 2021 Hannah Marshallsay

Carriers skip port calls in China in an attempt to improve schedule reliability of Sea Freight services. Air Freight services continue to be hampered by handling delays as a result of staff shortages.

Carriers Skip Port Calls in Effort to Meet Schedules

The strong peak season Christmas demand from retailers in both the US and Europe continues to put pressure on supply chains the world over, with the current considerable delays to Sea Freight services persisting. Market demand continues to exceed supply and the availability of space is being made worse by port congestion in almost every major port in the world driven primarily by lack of labour in the ports and a shortage of truck drivers to move containers away from the ports. These factors have pushed sea freight schedule reliability to an all-time low. 

Due to the instability of schedules, and with delays to arrivals of vessels, carriers are attempting to improve the situation by skipping calls at congested origin ports in an effort to meet schedules and improve their arrival times. It will take time for these measures to have a positive effect, for the present, vessel delays and low schedule reliability will continue, with rates remaining high.

Air Freight Hampered by Staff Shortages

Air freight services are struggling under the combined challenge of high demand and disruption at airports as a result of staff shortages and Covid-19 restrictions. Congestion is being experienced at airport hubs across Europe and the US as a result of handling issues. Flight delays in China are exacerbating the situation by creating scheduling challenges. With airline schedules and capacity constantly shifting, forecasting the requirements for ground staff to ensure sufficient numbers of handlers to meet the arriving and departing aircraft is a significant problem. 

In the UK, severe delays as a result of staff shortages at Heathrow continues to be a problem with slower than usual processing of shipments arriving at the airport. We are still experiencing cargo waiting at the airport for up to a week before being discharged. As such, customers should be aware that their cargo is unfortunately likely to incur delays. 

Port of Felixstowe Congestion Continues

As has been widely reported in the media, the Port of Felixstowe is experiencing congestion which is impacting the delivery of shipments in the UK. The congestion issues are the result of the number of uncollected empty containers growing landside, partly due to HGV driver shortages in the UK. The diversion of ships by carriers to other European hub ports has also contributed to the delays. When vessels do arrive at Felixstowe they are remaining in port for longer and we are experiencing slower discharge times which is having a knock-on effect on delivery times after arrival.

To mitigate the situation with rising volumes of containers on the terminal, the Port of Felixstowe has been periodically refusing empty containers in an effort to clear the congestion backlog. We expect that cycles of refusing empty container restitution will be used as a tool for managing congestion as we continue through peak season.

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