Restrictions on the UK’s largest container port are improving, so Britons should shop normally for Christmas, a cabinet minister said after reports of large ships bringing goods from Asia were diverted.
Oliver Dowden, co-chair of the Conservative party, told Sky News that authorities in Felixstowe had said the situation was improving in Suffolk Harbor, which handles about 40% of the containers entering and leaving the UK.
Dowdens’ comments came after the world’s largest container transport company, Danish firm AP Mller-Maersk, called the port one of its biggest global challenges due to a large number of containers caused by a lack of executives. of HGV.
The problems in Felixstowe, which also stalled in late 2020, have come at the beginning of the busiest period of the year for firms and shipping ports, with retailers importing higher quantities of goods from East Asia to ‘sold during the Christmas shopping season.
There is clearly a challenging problem, especially with HGV executives and not just here, Dowden said. Across the whole of Europe, Poland, the US, even China has this challenge. This is why we have taken steps to address it, whether it is, for example, by training, another 5,000 places for training HGV executives, making the process more flexible.
Maersk said the overload at Felixstowe was taking place for the past two weeks, meaning the company had to anchor as much as one in three of its large ships to mainland ports, including Rotterdam.
The goods were then unloaded and brought to Britain by smaller boats, which did not have to wait long for a bed in Felixstowe as larger boats.
Moreover, the average time a container carrier spends at the port known as the residence time has doubled from four and a half days in 2020 to nine days.
Felixstowe reported that congestion has eased in recent days and there was more room for imported containers than at any time since early July.
However, industry experts do not expect the port cargo to be cleared until early 2022, given the rush of retailers to import goods before the festive season and the Chinese Lunar New Year holiday that takes place in early February when factories across the country close for at least a week, if not longer.
Logistics industry analysts warn that port congestion means higher delays and potentially higher costs for consumers and businesses, which is particularly problematic in Britain, where about 90% of imports arrive by sea.
The problems at Felixstowe will only be a short-term failure if the port can clear the backlog the way it says it is doing, according to Nick Bailey, head of research at Transport Intelligence.
The long-term challenge will come if shipping freighters decide to cross UK ports more often. That would change the way many imports in the UK work, Bailey said, though he added that he considered this unlikely to be the case at the moment.
A spokesman for the British Associated Ports, which operates and operates 21 ports across the UK, said ABP is aware of the challenges some ports in the UK are facing. However, the significant investments of ABPs in infrastructure, people, equipment and technology have made us determined to manage the current challenges.
Our teams in all countries are working hard with our customers and other supply chain partners, and we can confirm that all ABP 21 ports are operating without any delays or service interruptions.
Official figures showed that the shortages of truck drivers and the biggest supply chain disruption in the UK not only had an impact on the country, but also weighed heavily on international trade in August.
The Office for National Statistics said commodity exports fell 1.3 billion, or 4.6%, from a month earlier, driven by a sharp drop in shipments of cars and mechanical power generators to the EU and the rest of the world.
Car production has come under pressure from global shortages of microchips, hampering export volumes. However, the ONS said staff shortages due to isolation and the significant lack of HGV executives had also delayed exports.
William Bain, head of trade policy at the British Chambers of Commerce, said firms were increasingly concerned about further trade disruption caused by Brexit.
Concerns are growing over tariffs or the loss of trade facilitation measures if there is a major deterioration in EU-UK relations over the next year. That would bring down a still fragile set of import and export data in EU-UK trade, he said.
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