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Monday, October 18, 2021

Christmas presents may not arrive in time as cargo vessels turned away from UK

Garden furniture due in June ‘buried’ in Felixstowe  

Nick Glynne, chief executive of online retailer Buy It Direct, which buys white goods, electronics and furniture from China to sell to UK consumers, said the problems were having a “massive impact” on customer service, staffing, revenue and profit.

“We’ve got a load of garden furniture in containers that was due in June buried somewhere around Felixstowe,” he said.

“We’ve got a whole load of electric scooters and American-style big fridge freezers due to arrive for Christmas and we don’t think it’s going to be here in time.

“They are so full they just can’t find our containers because they are buried under five others.  

“We’re getting charged demurrage and detention fees because they are holding on to our loads for longer. 

“Then there’s the problem with some ports saying they won’t accept empty containers back because they just don’t have the space to take them. Then we are getting charged for not returning empty containers. It feels like a money-making exercise and a tax on importers.”

Supermarkets and retailers held a conference call on Tuesday to discuss the problems at Felixstowe. Food and drink deliveries are understood to have escaped the worst of the disruption so far, although Tesco is already sending more goods by rail to minimise the impact of driver shortages. 

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. As cargo cannot be removed fast enough, there is a backlog of containers at the ports which are preventing new ships from docking and unloading.

“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.”

A spokesman for the Port of Felixstowe said: “In common with other major ports in the UK and beyond, the Port of Felixstowe is experiencing impacts of the global supply chain crisis.

“The vast majority of import containers are cleared for collection within minutes of arriving and there are over 1,000 unused haulier bookings most days.

“The situation is improving and there is more spare space for import containers this week than at any time since the beginning of July when supply chain impacts first started to bite.

“Empty container levels remain high as import containers are returned and we are asking shipping lines to remove them as quickly as possible.”

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