Ministers were warned of delays in Felixstowe last December as concerns about shortages grow.
Ministers were warned last December of shortcomings in the port of Felixstowe, which have resulted in a significant backlog of cargo ships. I can betray.
Last year, business leaders and logistics chiefs privately warned the Department of Transport (DfT) and opposition parties about the shortage of truck drivers and staff shortages in the port – the UK’s largest port for cargo ships.
A private briefing note viewed from Ialso shows that the global shipping company ONE threatened to divert ships from Felixstowe to Hamburg out of concern about delays.
Container ships from China were also diverted from Felixstowe to the Port of London Gateway last year due to traffic jams when unloading cargo.
This week, Danish shipping giant Maersk was forced to divert its oversized ships loaded with Christmas goods to other European destinations to ensure deliveries in the UK can be reached for Black Friday and the pre-Christmas season.
Felixstowe handles around 36 percent of the containers entering the country and blames the accumulation of cargo in its port to a number of problems, from a lack of truck drivers to a lack of inland storage capacity.
Ministers went on the airwaves yesterday to insist that the situation in the port is improving and to ask the public not to panic buying Christmas presents for fear of shortages.
Conservative Party leader Oliver Dowden said he was “confident people can get their toys for Christmas”.
However, a managing director of a logistics company said Felixstowe was still plagued by delays and blamed the shortage of truck drivers, but also “port practices – it takes hours and hours for drivers to tip containers and collect them”.
Peter Wilson, managing director of the Cory Brothers shipping company, said shipping and transportation issues were a global problem, but the UK had “a major sticking point with truck drivers and their demand to move goods out of ports”.
He added that there was “potential” for shortages of some goods just before Christmas, especially toys and household appliances.
Tim Morris, chief executive of the UK Major Ports Group – the trade association for the UK’s largest Prts – said that while global supply chains are busy, there is “no need to panic” over Christmas.
“There will be some fluctuation in the short term, but retailers, their suppliers, all of the logistics companies that work between the manufacturing and distribution sides are going to work really hard to keep supplies moving,” he added.
The DfT will wonder what it knew about the problems in Felixstowe last year, with Shadow Sea Minister Mike Kane warning that the government was acting too slowly.
“Truck drivers don’t want to stand in queues because they are paid based on the kilometers driven. We’ve been ringing the alarm bells since early summer, and once again the government’s response is too little late, “said Kane.
When asked whether the ministers were informed about the problems at Felixstowe in the past year, the DfT said that the ministers were in regular contact with the industry.
A spokeswoman added, “Worldwide port capacity fluctuates regularly in response to increased seasonal demand, and this has been exacerbated by the ongoing global shortage of container and truck drivers.”