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Fix container problems at Felixstowe Port, government urged

PUBLISHED: 16:37 12 October 2020 | UPDATED: 09:19 13 October 2020

Delays at the Port of Felixstowe have been attributed, in part, to issues with the Vehicle Booking System (VBS) used by hauliers to get on to the port.  Pictured: The largest container ship in the world, MSC Gulsun, docked at the Port of Felixstowe Picture: ALAN BOYLE

Delays at the Port of Felixstowe have been attributed, in part, to issues with the Vehicle Booking System (VBS) used by hauliers to get on to the port. Pictured: The largest container ship in the world, MSC Gulsun, docked at the Port of Felixstowe Picture: ALAN BOYLE

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A major trade body has called for the government to step in and bring an end to problems with containers at the Port of Felixstowe.

The boss of the British International Freight Association (BIFA) has called for the government to act as arbitrator between the port and hauliers, as problems with the vehicle booking system (VBS) at the Port of Felixstowe continue.

Firms from around Suffolk say the port has failed to provide enough slots for lorries to get on to the quay to load and unload freight over recent months, with the problem reaching a head after lockdown as the volume of freight increased.

The port denies this, writing on its website that the problem was due to hauliers securing as many booking as possible “irrespective of their actual need”.

Some hauliers have even warned that the delays could cost the economy of the whole country could suffer because of delays at the port.

MORE: Christmas presents in peril due to delays at the Port of Felixstowe

Robert Keen, director general of BIFA, said: “There is a huge difference of opinion between the port’s users and its management, over the causes of the less than satisfactory operational performance that continues to be experienced at Felixstowe.

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“Our members say that the port authority is merely paying lip service to any enquiries they make, which is unacceptable for a port authority, which owns the UK’s busiest container port, and has been happy to market it as the ‘Port of Britain’.

“The debacle in 2018, when the port undertook a disastrous migration to a new in-house terminal operating system appears to be at the root of the current VBS problems, which is exacerbating the congestion problems caused by other issues – including a huge increase in container moves ahead of the Golden Week in China, reduced container moves per hour at the quayside and serious staffing issues.

“BIFA members have suffered from two years of poor service from the port, and we feel that there is a need for independent arbitration managed by government to address the many issues faced by the port’s users.”

MORE: Port of Felixstowe make changes to haulage system in attempt to ease container chaos

A source at the Department for Transport said the government was aware of the situation at the port and liasing with both hauliers and the port.

A spokesman for the port said: “Covid-19 has created challenges across all parts of the supply chain. This was less of an issue when volumes were low but in recent weeks we have seen a sharp increase in throughput which has put pressure on resources at the port and within the supply chain, in particular the haulage sector.

“In response we are recruiting additional workers and sub-contractors and have introduced changes to our VBS booking system and made more bookings available for hauliers.

“We have continued to engage with port users and kept the Government fully informed.”


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