Date: 07.10.2020

UK container ports continue to struggle

After weeks of complaints from port users, shipping lines, hauliers and cargo owners, there is some hope that Felixstowe’s service levels may be improving, but similar challenges are now being experienced at other key container ports.

After the recent well-documented service issues, delays, and industry frustrations surrounding the performance of the Port of Felixstowe, blamed on a sharp spike in volumes and a high proportion of late vessels, there is hope that the worst may be over. 

Increasing numbers of vessel diversions, added to port user complaints, seem to have encouraged the ports management to take steps, that will address the situation. 

The Felixstowe container yard remains at a high density, but measures have been introduced to manage the flow of containers to and from the port which were reported to be having a positive impact.

The port has 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.

The reintroduction of empty restitution is welcome and we have seen the availability of VBS slots increase, but turnaround times for our drivers remains slow, and Covid changeover/peak times are still unchanged. 

Port management claim to have handled increasing numbers of containers through their rail terminals and are working with all operators to further improve the volume of containers moved inland during the coming days.

Labour availability at the port is improving and they welcomed the first intake of new operational staff since lockdown measures eased at the end September, with100 additional equipment drivers being recruited.

Overall empty container evacuation is increasing as carriers reposition much needed empty containers back to Asia, where export volumes to Europe and the US remain very strong.  

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.  

Metro has strong working relationships directly with the ports, carriers and haulage partners, that ensures we are informed and can react swiftly to any issues the ports may face. 

Keeping our customers informed through their account management team and via our award winning MVT supply chain visibility tool means we can limit the issues they face, to keep supply chains moving and avoid unnecessary costs.