Thousands of containers diverted amid backlog at UK’s biggest port

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The problem will add to concerns about how the UK will deal with the prime Christmas period

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One of the world’s largest shipping companies has said it is moving ships away from UK ports because of the build-up of cargo.

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Maersk has started to do away with its container ships felixtov, the UK’s largest commercial port, to unload elsewhere Europe before using small ships to get to the end Delivery to the UK, the Financial Times reported.

The UK port industry has also warned that some ports are managing access to storage space with “short-term restrictions” to reduce congestion issues.

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Lars Mikel Jensen, Head of the Global Ocean Network at Maersk, said, hgv Driver shortage has slowed down the time taken for emptying and lifting of containers.

/ PA collection

“We had to stop operations on a ship because there was nowhere to discharge the containers,” he said.

“Felixstow is one of the top two or three most hit terminals.

“We have to take some of the larger ships away from Felixstow and relay some smaller ships for cargo.

“We did it for a while over the summer and now we’re starting to do it again.”

The backlog at Felixstow, which accounts for 36 per cent of UK freight container volumes, will raise concerns about how the UK industry will cope with the key Christmas period.

Mr Jensen also warned that this could mean that retailers are forced to prioritize what they ship with in order to cope with congestion.

/ PA Wire

A port spokesman said: “Along with other major ports in the UK and beyond, the Port of Felixstow is coping with the effects of a global supply chain crisis.

“The vast majority of import containers are cleared for collection within minutes of arrival and there are over 1,000 unused hauler bookings on most days.

“The situation is improving and there is more free space for import containers this week than at any time since the beginning of July when the supply chain impact first began to bite.

“Empty container levels remain high as import containers are returned and we are asking shipping lines to remove them as quickly as possible.”

Lorry driver shortages have contributed to the disruption at UK ports.

Tim Morris, chief executive officer of UK Major Ports Group, said trade ports had “been badly hit by factors such as HGV driver shortages, jammed shipping and sandwiched between UK supply chains”.

He added: “Ports have taken significant action to respond to the challenges and build resilience.

“They have increased gate openings 24/7, increased trucking capacity at peak hours, sought to maximize rail freight utilization within critical network constraints, created additional storage space and allowed more people has recruited.

“But there is increasing pressure from well-publicized issues affecting all UK supply chains, particularly the shortage of HGV drivers.

“So ports have to manage access to storage space very dynamically in extreme situations. This can mean some very limited short-term restrictions.

“The ports are committed to working closely with customers and across supply chains to keep goods moving.”

And on a visit to an HGV training center near Oldham in Greater Manchester, Labor leader Sir Keir Starmer said the reduction was “absolutely visionary”.

Speaking to broadcasters, he said: “We need to get drivers back on the road as soon as possible because we have already seen the impact on fuel in recent weeks.

“Now we are seeing the impact in childbirth and it is going to go on for weeks and months into Christmas.

“And I think everyone would be saying that we need to do something about it, we need to get that training.

“But for heaven’s sake, it was predicted, it was absolutely far-sighted, and the government did not respond.

“We knew when we left the EU that we would need a plan B regarding drivers, we knew there would be an impact because of the pandemic, and here we are in the middle of a crisis and we’ve got, What? A prime minister who is missing in action.”

Sites elsewhere around the world have also suffered significant delays.

Retailers have highlighted particular issues in China and East Asia, where pandemic restrictions and inclement weather conditions have affected shipping.

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