The Port of Felixstowe is the UK’s biggest container port, handling just under 40% of all containers sent to and from the UK – and as Christmas approaches, the port is in the middle of its peak season and experiencing severe congestion and disruption.
The result is that the average shipping container arriving at Felixstowe right now is spending more than nine days at the port before it is collected – double the average dwell time for import containers in 2020.
What is causing the disruption at Felixstowe?
The difficulties are being caused, in part, by the shortage of haulage drivers in the UK. This driver shortage is being experienced across Europe – but is particularly bad in the UK because of Brexit, the pandemic and other factors. For more on that particular issue you can read our UK haulage update.
Alongside this, container terminals are feeling the pressure of a major increase in the number of containers being moved per vessel during the pandemic. A recent report by IHS Markit revealed that containers handled at major US, North European and Asian ports jumped between 10% and 70% in the first half of this year, compared with the same period in 2020.
In Northern Europe, the Port of Felixstowe has seen the greatest increase in containers handled with 18%. As the number of containers rises, container collections have dropped without the drivers to get them moving out – with the port now having almost 50,000 empty containers on the terminal. These factors have combined to create the current delays and disruption, with the management of the port temporarily closing gates to new containers last week – and considering turning vessels away entirely if the situation doesn’t improve.
What is being done to alleviate the pressure?
Thankfully, according to a comment from the Port of Felixstowe this week, the situation is improving and there is more spare space for import containers than at any time since the supply chain difficulties began to strike in July of this year.
However, empty container levels remain high, and this is where we at Twill, supercharged by Maersk, are doing all we can to help. We have an empty evacuation plan in place to help remove empty containers from terminals and as part of this we have sourced additional storage that can be utilised at Tilbury Port in London and another site in Ipswich.
These sites will provide alternative storage for empty containers until the situation at Felixstowe eases. More details on how to make use of these measures, and other steps we’ve taken, can be found via Maersk’s regular advisories.
What steps can you take to avoid delay?
We understand this is a difficult period for logistics and encourage customers to contact our customer care team if you have any questions or queries relating to your cargo and the situation at Felixstowe.
If you are looking to ship cargo to or from the UK, we would advise seeking alternative routes via other UK ports if possible – and to account for possible delays in your planning if you do book to ship via Felixstowe.