New Felixstowe port boss starts work amid VBS complaints from hauliers

A new boss at the Port of Felixstowe will take up his post today, as the port remains embroiled in a dispute with hauliers.

Chris Lewis, who was formerly chief executive at the Suffolk port, returns as a chief executive of Hutchison Ports UK – Felixstowe’s owners.

In September, when the appointment was first announced, industry news source The Loadstar reported that Mr Lewis had been handed the post in an attempt to “stop the rot” at the port.

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Mr Lewis starts amid continued complaints from hauliers regarding the ports vehicle booking system (VBS) which allows truck drivers to book slots to get on to the port to pick up or drop off cargo.

One haulier told this newspaper that they are hoping to meet with Mr Lewis to discuss the issues.

In a statement on their website, the Port of Felixstowe said: “There is a significant amount of misinformation being circulated regarding the operational status of the Port of Felixstowe.

“The port is fully operational.

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“Changes have been made to the Vehicle Booking System to improve the recycling of returned bookings.

“Further changes will be introduced if necessary to improve functioning of the system.

“In common with major ports worldwide, the Port of Felixstowe remains very busy due to a post-lockdown spike in container volumes. This is likely to remain the case for a number of weeks but we are working hard to minimise the impact on daily operations and to maintain vital supply chains.”

In a message to employees released in September, Clemence Cheng, executive director at the Chinese-owned group, welcomed Mr Lewis’s appointment.

“Over the past 10 years Chris has held MD/CEO positions at Southampton and London Gateway, and has a proven track record in delivering high levels of productivity and customer service using a teamwork approach,” said Mr Cheng.

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“Chris will report to me in my capacity as managing director and division head of Hutchison Ports Europe and will strengthen my management team, allowing me to spend more time to focus on other division and group matters, including our expansion in Abu Qir, Egypt and Quebec, Canada.

“I have no doubt Chris will have all your support and please join me in wishing him every success.”

Mr Lewis started his career in the sector at Felixstowe in 1983 and stayed with the company until 2010, rising to the role of chief executive in 2006.