Two-week delays already apparent ahead of the pre-Christmas peak import season as Southampton and Felixstowe struggle to clear backlogs
UK shippers and forwarders face a difficult fourth quarter if congestion at Felixstowe and Southampton container terminals continues, according a growing number of freight forwarders.
Although Southampton reported that congestion was easing last week, forwarders are telling, told Lloyd’s Loading List that backlogs were still significant at both ports and volumes would soon spike.
“Whilst we aren’t suffering the worst waiting times, we still are feeling the consequences and are needing to adjust our processes carefully,” said one.
“It’s very testing. We are already up to a two-week delay on bookings. We are likely to see an increase in container arrivals come the end of October through to mid-December for the pre-Christmas peak.
“Perhaps a slow period between Christmas and early January may be the answer to balancing demand again before Chinese New Year. But, if not, then I guess this could be a long road until the CNY closedown.”
Congestion stemmed from IT failure at Felixstowe earlier this year. This resulted in containers arriving at terminals in surges, or being diverted to alternative ports.
As volumes were switched to Southampton, congestion there also began to build.
“The IT problem affected hauliers getting in to port,” the forwarder said. “After what was thought to be a small blip, it continued for weeks and various importers made a drastic decision to switch the port of entry to Southampton. “Imagine even a 10% increase overnight and the strain on trucking that would be caused. The influx of extra containers has simply put booking times back to around 14 days.”
Asked why more boxes were not being diverted to London Gateway, the forwarder said its liner service roster was different to those of Felixstowe and Southampton. “Why would anyone opt for a slower service? Time is money,” he added.
In addition to FSEW being a leading independent international freight forwarder, with multiple carrier/service options, we also have at our disposal the resources of our container haulage division, with our own trucks, trailers and drivers under our direct control. We also have a large block booking on the daily rail service from Southampton into the Freightliner deport at Cardiff, which is adjacent to our yard and office and from where we can arrange prompt onward delivery by road. This provides our customers with more options, flexibility, reliability and overall better control of your container deliveries and associated costs, which significantly mitigates some of the issues adversely affecting the general marketplace.
A recent example of our capacity and capability was having the resources to run one of our own vehicles empty to London Gateway to collect a diverted container that was urgently required by one of our customers.
Result: our customer received urgent stock 14 days prior to shipping line’s earliest available delivery date and also avoided incurring significant demurrage costs.
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