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UK Container port and haulage update

Update on the Port of Felixstowe, congestion at Southampton, driver shortages and short term outlook.

Update on the Port of Felixstowe

The Port of Felixstowe are still experiencing problems and lower productivity levels than before the implementation of the new Terminal Operating System (TOS) that went live in June. One ocean carrier has stated that the productivity on shipside operations is still 30% below what was achieved before the new IT system. We are still seeing vessels “cut and run” before all their intended containers are discharged or loaded, to keep to their strict schedules. There has been no official update from the Port of Felixstowe since the 24th of August, when the port stated that things were improving, and that their IT experts were working on solutions.

The ports’ IT problems are affecting landside operations, causing reduced haulage availability and driver productivity. As rail movements have designated time slots, trains have often had to leave without all booked containers on-board, putting additional pressure on already stretched haulage resources.

Box congestion affecting Southampton Port

The congestion and poor productivity at Felixstowe in the past few months is also affecting the Southampton port. The terminal operator, DP World, are reporting very high stack levels, impacting their productivity. Additionally, they have claimed that carriers have an unseasonably large number of empty containers in the port, which in turn is blocking space for normal imports and exports. DP World are working with their shipping line clients to reduce these levels down to agreed allowances.

The port has seen volumes go up during the traditional Pre-Christmas Peak and due to additional services being diverted to Southampton from Felixstowe. All these factors slow down shipside and landside operations, which in turn reduces the UK haulage and rail productivity.
DSV Newsletter - UK container port and haulage update

UK driver shortages

Haulage in UK continues to suffer from driver shortages and poor productivity in the ports. The Road Haulage Association posted on the 2nd of October that “UK haulage operators, employing foreign drivers are making a massive contribution to the economy, as they are helping to move 98% of our food and agriculture.” We are aware that non-UK based drivers make up a high percentage of container drivers. Despite the best efforts of road haulage companies trying to attract and train new drivers, generally container haulage is perceived as less attractive to other types of HGV driving.

UK Rail has suffered many years of underinvestment in new rolling stock and paths for freight trains, which are currently severely limited with priority going to passenger trains.

Short term outlook

Although volumes will reduce in the coming weeks, the weather will change, and ports are expected to suffer temporary closures when high winds, fog, snow and ice arrive. Hopefully the winter will be mild.

DSV Air & Sea continue to expand our pool of approved haulage contractors. We recommend that our customers please make bookings as early as possible, at least one week before vessels’ intended arrival date and book delivery five to six days after intended vessel arrival. This is to allow for a long discharge of vessel or delay in arrival or customs clearance. Ideally, we recommend clients to consider increasing lead times to allow for longer transit door-to-door. The lead times from booking to delivery are now running at 10-14 days in all major ports.

In an emergency, either if your goods are late or if you are worried about long transits and delays on ocean In an emergency, either if your goods are late or if you are worried about long transits and delays on ocean freight, we recommend you discuss with local DSV staff, to use any of our alternative additional/faster services:

  • Airfreight – this service is ideal for very urgent and time-critical cargo, direct and deferred services to suit your timeline & budget.
  • Sea/Air service – from some Central and Northern China ports, this service can be a few days faster than the best ocean-only transit time. It will also avoid the current delay at ports and strain on UK container haulage.
  • Rail Product from China – from Central and Northern China ports, rail is usually several days faster than our ocean transit times and will avoid the congested ports.
  • LCL (Less than Container Load) - this service is ideal if you only have 20’ FCL worth of cargo. We generally have better control over delivery capability on trailers and have quick local arrangements to devan the cargo fast.

We thank you for your continued support and patience during this challenging time. DSV will keep you further updated in due course.

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