Maersk diverting containers away from Felixstowe after port congestion
- Credit: PA
Shipping giant Maersk said it is diverting vessels away from The Port of Felixstowe because of a build-up of cargo.
It has started rerouting its container ships away from the Suffolk town, the UK’s largest commercial port, to unload elsewhere in Europe before using smaller vessels to get deliveries to the UK, the Financial Times reported.
Lars Mikael Jensen, head of global ocean network at Maersk, said the HGV driver shortage has slowed down the time it takes for containers to be emptied and picked up.
“We had to stop operations on a ship because there was nowhere to discharge the containers,” he said.
“Felixstowe is among the top two or three worst-hit terminals.
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“We are having to deviate some of the bigger ships away from Felixstowe and relay some of the smaller ships for the cargo.
“We did it for a little while over the summer and now we’re starting to do it again.”
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The backlog at Felixstowe, which deals with 36% of UK freight container volumes, will add to concerns over how UK industry will cope with the key Christmas period.
Mr Jensen also warned that this may mean retailers are forced to prioritise what they ship to deal with the congestion.
Conservative Party chairman Oliver Dowden told Sky News that he believed the situation was "improving" and told families to "buy as you do normally".
"I'm confident that people will be able to get their toys for Christmas," he said.
Hauliers described the situation at the port earlier this week as a "perfect storm" with port officials confirming that the pre-Christmas peak combined with haulage shortages, congestion at inland terminals and poor vessel schedule reliability had led to the build up.
A spokesman for the port said: “In common with other major ports in the UK and beyond, the Port of Felixstowe is experiencing impacts of the global supply chain crisis.
“The vast majority of import containers are cleared for collection within minutes of arriving and there are over 1,000 unused haulier bookings most days.
“The situation is improving and there is more spare space for import containers this week than at any time since the beginning of July when supply chain impacts first started to bite.
“Empty container levels remain high as import containers are returned and we are asking shipping lines to remove them as quickly as possible.”
Tim Morris, chief executive officer of the UK Major Ports Group, said that trade ports had become “the jam in the sandwich between surging, volatile shipping and UK supply chains badly impacted by factors such as HGV driver shortages”.
He said: “Ports have taken significant action to respond to the challenges and build resilience.
“They have extended gate opening to 24/7, increased capacity for trucks at peak hours, sought to maximise rail freight usage within the significant constraints of the network, created additional storage space and recruited more people.
“But the pressures are being exacerbated by well-publicised issues impacting all UK supply chains, notably shortages of HGV drivers.
“Ports therefore have to manage access to storage space very dynamically in extreme situations. This can mean some very limited short-term restrictions.
“Ports are committed to working closely with customers and entire supply chains to keep goods moving.”