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Felixstowe acts as congestion spreads

Nearly three weeks after their apology for service issues, Felixstowe have announced vehicle booking changes, but performance is now deteriorating at other key container ports.

Weeks of poor service, delays, and congestion at the Port of Felixstowe, blamed on a 30% spike in volumes and late vessels, led to vessel diversions, negative press reporting and huge increases in port user complaints.

Port management appear to be finally taking steps to address the situation and while the container yard remains at a high density, measures introduced to manage the flow of containers to and from the port appear to be having a positive impact.

The port released over 1,600 additional vehicle booking slots (VBS) in the last few weeks, extended Sunday opening hours and claim that on average, 749 VBS slots remain unused each day, despite the large number of containers waiting collection.

The large number of unused booking slots has been blamed on some hauliers securing as many bookings as they can, irrespective of their actual need. They then return unwanted bookings at the last minute by which time they are of limited benefit to other hauliers.

Last week 11,704 bookings were returned and 6,679 bookings were unused.

Felixstowe are increasing the number of bookings available on both terminals and, to ensure a more equitable and efficient distribution of bookings, they are making the following changes to vehicle booking slots (VBS) on Monday 12 October:

All bookings between 11:00 and 19:00 without a container associated with it four hours before the time of the booking will be lost and automatically reclaimed by the system; all other hours remain unchanged

Reclaimed bookings will be re-released for general use but it will be mandatory to attach container details at the time of booking

We welcome the increased availability of VBS slots increase, but a scarce haulage resource is now spread even thinner and turnaround times for our drivers remains slow.

The recent vessel diversions from Felixstowe into other ports, including London Gateway, and Southampton are impacting operations at these ports, as they try to accommodate the unplanned additional volumes.

VBS availability is reducing at peak times and there may be some handling delays where park areas are limited in the number of units per hour by area.

Southampton also has challenges, with import volumes now 30% higher on average than in August.

Volume on the quay is very high – overall yard capacity (import/export and empties) is at a record level – and dwell time is increasing as haulage capacity is reached, creating challenges for delivery availability.

We are working closely with all the ports, carriers and hauliers, to proactively react swiftly to any issues and protect our customers supply chains