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Published
Nov 16, 2020
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Are Christmas deliveries in peril due to Covid and Brexit port chaos?

Published
Nov 16, 2020

Already facing one of the toughest Christmas trading periods in modern times, UK retail now has to contend with the prospect of product shortages as goods are being held up at a major port ahead of the delayed seasonal onslaught.


Container port backlog "chaos"


Retailers are being warned of “chaos” at Felixstowe, one of the country’s biggest container ports, that could lead to product shortages this Christmas as firms also stockpile goods ahead of the Brexit deadline. The Suffolk port handles around 40% of all import- and export-related containers in the UK.

Freight manager Matt Hudson told the BBC: "It's delaying freight going into shops for consumers to buy," he said. "Shops are struggling anyway at the moment because of the impact from the coronavirus.

He added: “If the chaos continues, increased shipping prices will be passed on to consumers”, he added.

Reports also claim 11,000 containers of government-procured PPE is clogging up Felixstowe with the port owner, Hutchison Ports UK, blaming the pandemic, alongside pre-Brexit stockpiling for the problems.

The PPE was a “significant factor” in the current congestion at port, one source told the Guardian newspaper, who suggested the government didn’t have anywhere to store it.

There are claims containers are being left on the quayside because haulage companies can’t book timings to enter the site.

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.”

Ports were already under pressure, having to catch up after the spring lockdown seriously disrupted operations when businesses postponed or cancelled billions of pounds of orders. There are therefore more containers coming into the port than normal.

Felixstowe was handling more than 100,000 containers a week, the spokesman added, but “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.”

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