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Congestion at the Port of Felixstowe results in vessel omissions

The HGV driver shortage continues to affect the UK as the Port of Felixstowe becomes congested with uncollected containers at the start of the busy runup to Christmas. 

Although importers are mostly able to get their goods cleared by customs brokers immediately on arrival, the average dwell time of containers on the port has increased from 4.5 days in 2020 to 9 in 2021 because many importers struggling to book container haulage within the first week. 

This delay in collections by hauliers, combined with the surplus of empty containers that need relocating to the Far East, has resulted in limited space at the Port of Felixstowe for unloading inbound cargo. Due to increased delays and complications, vessel operators have began to omit Felixstowe on their liner schedules, instead choosing to offload in Europe and feeder the containers over at a later date.

Port of Felixstowe has unused haulier bookings

Whilst trying to clear the congestion, the Port of Felixstowe has extended their gate opening times to 24/7, adding an additional day and a half of availability to hauliers.

Despite the increase in bookings, the shortage of HGV1 drivers has meant that 1000s of Vehicle Booking System (VBS) slots are not being used every week. The use of VBS bookings is what allows the Port of Felixstowe to manage the port’s resources and prevent HGV1 drivers from being delayed for hours on the port during peak times. 

Hauliers unable to do more

Although HGV1 drivers are normally able to take on overtime, and many do in the lead up to Christmas, they are strictly monitored on their break and working time because of the safety concerns of driving a 44-tonne vehicle. Tachograph technology tracks drivers’ activities to ensure that they do not breach legal working limits. 

Hauliers are already paying drivers higher wages in order to keep up with competitors, and trying to recruit more to meet demand. There is nothing that they can do against the shortage, though.

Surplus of empties in the Port of Felixstowe

The coronavirus lockdowns have resulted in an equipment imbalance around the world. The Far East has a shortage of empties, which has led to blank sailings and increased spot rates as supply has outweighed demand in the Far East.
The Port of Felixstowe currently has more import than export cargo throughput, and the increase in the buildup to Christmas will mean that there will be more empty containers than normal in the terminal.
Shipping companies are now using dedicated vessels to collect empty equipment from the Port of Felixstowe, and other ports in Europe, in an effort to relocate containers to the Far East and reduce congestion. 

Do you need advice on the shipping crisis?

The congestion at the Port of Felixstowe is an example of the issues that ports across the UK and Europe are experiencing. Delays and increased costs affect businesses and consumers alike. If you have any questions on how this could affect you, please contact one of our experts for more information. 


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