Vehement denial over labour shortages

PORT chiefs today vehemently denied claims that quayside labour shortages are stopping unloading operations and forcing them to turn away ships.Felixstowe – Britain's biggest container terminal – has taken on 270 extra quayside workers in the past 12 months and executives said there are no staff problems at all.

PORT chiefs today vehemently denied claims that quayside labour shortages are stopping unloading operations and forcing them to turn away ships.

Felixstowe - Britain's biggest container terminal - has taken on 270 extra quayside workers in the past 12 months and executives said there are no staff problems at all.

The comments follow claims that the port had so many vacancies that it was struggling to handle vessels arriving for unloading.

One portworker said that ships berthing at the quayside had found no-one available to unload them and had instead sailed for Rotterdam to deliver, returning to Felixstowe a few days later, causing delays in schedules.


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But port corporate affairs manager Paul Davey said there was "no truth whatsoever" in the allegations and executives were "mystified" by them.

He said that in the past year the port had taken on 270 berth operators and shipworkers, as well as extra staff in warehousing and other areas of the port, and there was no labour shortage at all.

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"We are not having any trouble attracting people to work here either - even though we are not advertising at the moment, we still get applications and letters expressing an interest in working here every day," he said.

"We keep all those on file and when we need more staff - as we will do later in the year when our current expansion project is complete - we have a pot of people on our waiting list to contact."

The only workers the port had a shortage of was engineers, but there was a national shortage of people entering the profession.

"We are working with the Haven Gateway Partnership to promote in local schools careers in all aspects of the shipping industry and encouraging people of good calibre to consider the range of jobs available," he said.

No ships had been turned away because of lack of workers, but some vessels may have re-jigged schedules during periods when high winds closed the port. However, ships visiting other ports may have faced similar problems at various times and visited Felixstowe instead.

Staff recruited in the past year were part of a project to improve service to port customers, service an ever-increasing number of vessels, and secure its ability to compete against other European ports.

The extension to Trinity Terminal - 270 metres of new quay to provide berths for two more of the world's largest ships - will create another 170 jobs.

The port already employs more than 2,800 people directly, and many thousands of others rely upon it for their livelihoods. The port contributes over £70 million a year in wages to the local economy.

n Do you have a story about the port? Ring our Felixstowe Newsdesk on 01394 284109.

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