Shipping giant Maersk has said it is rerouting arrivals to Felixstowe as the UK’s biggest container port hits capacity.
The Suffolk port, which handles approximately 36% of Britain’s container imports and exports, is currently full, resulting in shipping containers that have travelled from Asia carrying toys and electrical goods being diverted to other ports.
Maersk, which handles around 40% of containers coming in and out of the UK, is among the shipping companies impacted by congestion at Felixstowe.
The Danish firm’s head of east-west network Lars Mikael Jensen said that Felixstowe was currently among the top three most challenging ports in the world to import into.
“There is a shortage of truckers in the UK. Normally after four to five days the containers are out of the terminal and into a warehouse in Birmingham or wherever before coming back empty.
“The trouble is that now we don’t have the same speed of flow of boxes moving in and out. With fewer truckers on average, it takes longer to get boxes out of the terminal, so they are left standing there.”
Jensen said the current congestion had been building over the past four weeks and was expected to last into the new year.
Most imported toys are shipped into Felixstowe, while other popular Christmas categories such as electronics, bikes and homeware items are also likely to be impacted by the backlog – adding to rising fears of Christmas gift shortages.
Containers are being unloaded at other ports, including Rotterdam, Antwerp and Bremerhaven, then transferred to smaller ships for transport to Britain, leading to delays of up to a week.
Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said: “Congestion at the Port of Felixstowe is yet another unwanted side effect of the HGV driver shortage.
“Retailers are working closely with suppliers to mitigate issues, including finding alternative routes to bring goods into the country, but further disruption may be unavoidable.”
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