Port of Felixstowe Delay Advisory

UK importers are facing numerous challenges these days. They include port delays, vessels diversions, a shortage of haulage availability and limited slots at ports to collect containers.

Of late, we have seen have significant issues with the UK’s inland container transport, which were exacerbated by last week’s bank holiday.

The lack of haulage capacity is one of the biggest problems: a number of EU drivers are not working, either because of holidays or quarantine requirements, and the overall pool of drivers has been reduced by many others who were furloughed in lockdown and subsequently moved into other employment.

With COVID secure working practices and social distancing means a two-hour unload now takes double the time, creating knock-on delays, impacting on vehicles planned work load.

An indication of the challenge is, one shipping line advised us today that a haulage booking could only be accommodated for delivery nearly two weeks later! Maltacourt are using every resource possible to minimise the impact to our customers, including using independent hauliers to offer timely deliveries, but there appears to be a transport shortage across the industry.

Many haulage companies have reduced the number of their drivers since the outbreak of COVID-19 and are reluctant to increase capacity in light of the number of blanked sailings and the uncertainty of future volume levels.

Vessel diversions also add to the issue as volumes suddenly spike in a port where the vessel is diverted,

Following discussions with the Sea Freight UK community around the current situation regarding the port of Felixstowe. The below major points were highlighted:

  • Port of Felixstowe are no longer accepting empty return of containers at the port until further notice. It is hoped that it will be early next week however still TBC.
  • Currently 50,000 TEU’s of empty containers sitting at the port of FXT which has completely saturated the port.
  • This means it is making it even more difficult to pull laden import containers from the stack due to the high level of containers currently on the due to the increased empties.
  • What would normally take the port 2 moves to pull a laden container from the stack is now taking 5-6 moves, thus increasing the turnaround time considerably.
  • This is leading to an overall delay in import containers being made available for haulier to collect.
  • The build-up of empty containers at the port of FXT is mainly due to vessel omissions, late vessel arrivals causing port congestion.
  • Therefore empty containers have built up on the quay as they are not being loaded on to the vessels to be re-positioned back at origin.
  • This is then causing the VBS slots to be cancelled as the port is saturated.
  • Hauliers currently cannot drop an empty export container to then collect an laden import container which is compounding the situation.
  • This is leading to hauliers currently sitting idle as they cannot drop an empty or collect a laden container.
  • Shipping lines are insistent on containers either being restituted at other various ports around the UK or other inland container terminals.

Felixstowe had experienced high volumes amid fewer rail services, and Southampton had faced “heavy delays”, although that was improving.

Currently we have been informed there are “no signs of the situation easing”, and that hauliers have very little visibility for future planning.

Please see below some recommendations which may help navigate any potential delays in your haulage bookings:

    • Book delivery slots in advance of the vessel ETA. 10-14 days is advisable based on the existing market conditions
    • Ensure commercial paperwork for customs clearance is shared at least 7 days prior to vessel arrival.
    • Accept deliveries in the PM rather than AM, where possible.
    • Can you stagger bookings throughout the week rather than have multiple containers on the same day.
    • Arrange delivery slots as close to the end of your free time
    • Book slots into the weekends if open and possible.

We will continue to do our utmost to ensure that our clients deliveries are made in a timely manner please bear with us in these unprecedented times

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