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Press highlight Felixstowe’s plight

The Felixstowe congestion that we reported on several weeks ago, is ongoing and branded “a mess’ by the BBC.

While Southampton and London Gateway hope to return to “business as usual” this month after “unprecedented” volumes, terminal congestion, longer vessel dwell times and slower processing of inbound containers continues at Felixstowe, which has been branded “a mess’ by the BBC.

The FT found Felixstowe to be the worst performer among key competitors in Europe and Asia in the first three quarters of 2020, with turnaround times up to eight hours longer than the 24 hours seen typically elsewhere. Lifts were said to be down to only 20 an hour, compared with 27 achieved in the north Continent range such as Antwerp and Bremerhaven

In their report ‘Felixstowe Port in ‘chaos’ as Christmas and Brexit loom’ the BBC said that. Retailers, shipping and haulage companies have complained of “chaos” at Felixstowe Port in Suffolk, affecting goods in the run-up to Christmas.

One ship due to be unloaded at the port last week was redirected to Rotterdam because of “unacceptable” delays.

The owner, Hutchison Ports, blames pre-Brexit stockpiling and the pandemic.

Part of the problem is a shipment of 11,000 containers of PPE ordered by the government that is clogging up the port.

Last week, Taiwanese shipping firm Evergreen directed one of its ships to bypass Felixstowe because of “serious port congestion”.

The ship’s cargo was unloaded in Rotterdam instead and ferried back to the UK via London’s Thamesport.

An Evergreen spokesman said the firm had been told by Felixstowe’s owner that a berthing slot – where cargo is unloaded – would not be available for up to 10 days after the ship’s scheduled arrival.

“Such a delay is totally unacceptable,” he said.

In a statement, Hutchison Ports UK said: “The imbalance in UK trade and Brexit stockpiling exacerbate current operational challenges and we are working with our customers and stakeholders to get through the current congestion.

“Performance at the port remains under pressure due to the Covid pandemic, high levels of import traffic, the large number of empty containers and a large amount of unusually long-stay containers held at the port.”

Felixstowe highlighted that it was taking action to increase its level of staff resources available, noting that “104 additional equipment drivers plus a number of engineers in support roles are being recruited and trained.

But in an operational note posted on its website, the company said delays at Felixstowe would continue “at least into December and possibly through into the New Year” – potentially causing havoc for firms still waiting on pre-Christmas stock.