Businesses call on government to help ease container port delays

The Port of Felixstowe could bid for cash from a £200m government pot to help with the Brexit transition Picture: STEPHEN...

The Port of Felixstowe could bid for cash from a £200m government pot to help with the Brexit transition Picture: STEPHEN WALLER/COURTESY OF THE PORT OF FELIXSTOWE - Credit: Picture: Stephen Waller

Logistics bosses are calling on the Government to help clear a backlog of containers at the country's major ports, including Felixstowe.

The port has been experiencing congestion problems for weeks, with shipping movement disruption caused by the pandemic affecting ports nationwide.

Traders at the east Suffolk port also faced delays recently due to a huge backlog of personal protective equipment (PPE) stored there, with the equivalent of 11,000 containers of masks, gloves and aprons taking up significant proportions of available space.

A stockpile of PPE at the former RAF Mendlesham site

Huge stockpiles of PPE containers were moved to sites in Suffolk, away from Felixstowe - Credit: Archant

However although logistics bosses believe the peak of the disruption has passed, fears remain that disruption could continue past the end of the Brexit transition period - and create further headaches for British industries.

The effects have already been felt in Swindon, where Japanese car manufacturer Honda has paused production due to "transport-related parts delays".

Elsewhere, fears have been raised that British supermarkets such as Asda and Tesco are among those facing "substantial" trade exposure caused by Brexit stockpiling disruption.

In a letter to transport secretary Grant Shapps, leaders of organisations including the UK Chamber of Shipping, the UK Major Ports Group and Logistics UK, called on Whitehall to not be "complacent" and provide "sensible flexibilities and easements" around the movement of containers at ports such as Felixstowe and Southampton.

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The letter read: "Although we are hopeful that the current peak of port congestion has passed, high volumes remain and could persist for some months, running into the period of the end of the EU transition.

"Therefore challenges remain. The current situation has risen in part from imbalances that accumulated over months. Reversing this accumulation is not an overnight task."

The Department for Transport said partners across the Government are working closely with the freight industry to resolve challenges in the global container system.

UK Major Ports Group chief executive Tim Morris said: "The Covid-19 pandemic has caused unprecedented volatility in global supply chains. The impact is being felt across the world, including here in the UK.

"The situation at the UK's ports is improving following commitment of extra resources, working closely with customers and ports across the UK taking on more traffic.

"However, we are not complacent. Improvements at UK ports will take time to work through supply chains, they remain very busy and the underlying problem is global."

The Port of Felixstowe has been approached for comment.

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