As you may have seen in recent media reports including on the BBC, ports in the UK are struggling to cope with the perfect storm of a huge demand for sea freight imports, social distancing measures and an unprecedented amount of PPE containers stuck at Felixstowe.
Many vessels are arriving at the port, mainly Felixstowe – which handles 40% of the UK’s sea freight containers, and not unloading all UK bound cargo, instead choosing to ‘cut and run’ whereby they offload the remaining cargo at European ports such as Rotterdam – leaving them to be shipped to the UK on much smaller ‘feeder’ vessels, this can take weeks.
This could not be coming at a worse time for sea freight importers, especially those with consumer goods for Christmas. They will have been expecting early November deliveries and now looking at up to a month delay.
While the secondary ports such as London Gateway and Southampton are fairing slightly better the knock on effect is naturally hitting them too.
Oliver Hawley, director of freight company Hawley Logistics said “shipping volumes for sea freight imports are incredibly high and the ports in the UK are simply struggling to cope, add in a few other issues such as social distancing amongst port workers and it really is a perfect storm for all freight forwarders and sea freight importers. We are doing all we can to ensure our customers cargo is delivered in a timely manner but in some cases there is just nothing that anyone can do other than remain patient, we are constantly updating our affected customers with live information. Many imports are looking at Air Freight services but air freight rates are high and space is sparse”
There are approximately 11,000 containers of government procured PPE sat at the port which has added to the congestion, many of these are being relocated off-site at container companies and they are hoping these should be removed within weeks.
All of this is only compounding the issue further up the supply chain of the difficulty of getting space on vessels out of China, with carriers reluctant to take UK bound cargo. With the current Brexit cliff edge looming and Chinese New Year only a few months away, this is unlikely to ease anytime soon, although Felixstowe port has assured customers that it is doing everything it can to improve the current situation.