Issues at Felixstowe, Southampton, London Gateway

The situation at the UK main ports can only be described as nothing short than complete chaos. Port of Felixstowe severely under estimated how much traffic would come through the port after the initial Covid 19.  This has had lasting impact on trade which has resulted in berthing issues and slow discharge of vessels. Combined with a shortage of transport has meant containers having to have the haulage booked over 14days before arrival in order to get a delivery slot. Even doing this is difficult as vessels find they have no berth on arrival and so either wait or the shipping line having to change their port rotation meaning, or being slow to discharge. This all means containers which have had the freight booked out in China are regularly running out of free quay time due to most only having 5 or 7 days free rental.

Even when hauliers have got a Vehicle Booking Slot (VBS)  they then end up having to wait may be a couple of hours on the quay to get their container loaded or off loaded. This then results in delay to customers warehouses, which in turns delays the next job the haulier has planned. Overall the delays progressively get worse and worse throughout the week and then start again the next week.

This has not just effected full container load shipments but has had a significant impact on LCL operations through Felixstowe. Normally LCL shipments are devanned within a few days of arrival. It is now taking up to 14days for containers to be devanned at Felixstowe/Ipswich ERTS and the delays keep building up as the consolidators struggle to get their containers off the quay.

Just to compound all of this the strong winds we have had in the UK over the past few weeks has made the situation even worse as the ports have had to shutdown all operations,which has added even more berthing and loading issues. As a result of these issues at Felixstowe more and more container traffic has been diverted into London Gateway and Southampton. These ports are struggling significantly due to the increased volumes. This has lead to some shipping lines and consolidators introducing or planning to introduce congestion charge fees. These can be as much as £150 per 20ft Container (so £300 for a 40ft or 40ft HC container).

Customers should be aware that despite this issue being entirely down to the ports being unable to manage the shipping traffic they will still be charging demurrage and other related charges which will unfortunately have to be passed on to you. There is no ability to claim back any of these charges from the ports. Several freight forwarders have been in contact with BIFA to see if they can intervene in the situation but they have been so far had little success in being able to get matters to improve.

For both importers and exporters in the North of England the alternative use the less congested feeder ports such as Immingham, Liverpool and Grangemouth. While it adds additional transit time of around 5 days and extra cost this is easily now being offset by all the delays and charges at these ports. Use the contact form to send us details and we will see how we can assist you.