The United Kingdom’s largest container port is the most recent port in the world to encounter difficulties owing to a boom in container shipping in 2021. As delays and congestion worsened, big carriers like Maersk began diverting ships away from Felixstowe, which transports more than a third of all containers in the United Kingdom. Felixstowe has since prohibited the return of empty containers.
One of the concerns plaguing the port is a lack of truck drivers to handle the containers. Britain has been encountering gasoline shortages in recent weeks, which the government attributed to a scarcity of competent truck drivers. Boris Johnson, the Prime Minister, made an effort to acquire additional drivers and even discussed deploying military tankers to distribute gasoline.
The challenges at Felixstowe are now being attributed to the same crisis of driver scarcity. Vessel dwell time at the port has essentially jumped to nine or ten days than the usual duration. The driver scarcity occurs at a time when the port is experiencing an increase in imports as businesses start stocking up for Christmas sales.
As a result of the consequent backlogs and congestion, Maersk requested last week that customers redirect returned containers to alternate ports. Customers have been instructed to ship containers to feeder ports. “Unfortunately, due to the huge volume of empty containers at the Felixstowe terminal, we are unable to accept any of your empty container returns,” Maersk stated in a customer alert.
According to media reports, this is not the first time Maersk has redirected one of its larger container ships away from the United Kingdom’s port. The Danish shipping giant attempted it momentarily during the summer and has again resorted to it due to congestion. Other carriers, notably Evergreen and CMA CGM, are also believed to have redirected ships away from the U.K. port.
The closure of the Felixstowe yards has also had a blow on other ports in the United Kingdom. Maersk informed clients that : “Due to the significant level of empty returns following the gate restrictions at Felixstowe, we have noticed an unprecedented amount of empty returns into London Gateway.” Subsequently, the London port was also compelled to shut its gates down temporarily last week. Maersk is reminding customers that it acquired additional storage space at Tilbury and “have been working tirelessly to increase the empty uplift on vessels.”
While both ports have reopened their gates, port officials are continuing to nudge the shipping companies to clear empties from the yards as swiftly as possible.
The opinions expressed herein are the author’s and not necessarily those of News2Sea.
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