The shipping giant Maersk has announced that it will divert ships from British ports due to an accumulation of cargo.
It has started diverting its container ships from Felixstowe, the UK’s largest trading port, to offload elsewhere in Europe before using smaller ships to finally get supplies to the UK, the Financial Times reported.
A shipping manager told the Times, “I don’t want to sound like a Grinch, but there will be gaps on the shelves this Christmas.”
The UK port industry has also warned that some ports are administering access to storage facilities with “short term restrictions” to alleviate congestion problems.
Conservative Party co-chair Oliver Dowden insisted that the government “meet these challenges” as cargo piles up in British ports.
He told Sky News: “There is clearly a difficult problem, however, especially with truck drivers, not just here but across Europe. Poland, the USA, even China have this challenge, which is why we have taken on this challenge, be it with training, 5,000 additional training positions for truck drivers, in order to make the process more flexible. We are working on these challenges to address them. “
He added, “The government is deeply moved by these challenges and is working to address them … We need to get the skills here to have these higher paying jobs.”
When asked about possible Christmas shortages, he said: “The situation is improving, I am confident that people will be able to get their toys for Christmas. Some people buy very early on Christmas, my wife is a pretty early Christmas buyer, others buy later. I would say just buy as usual. “
When asked if Santa would be coming to visit, Mr. Dowden said, “Yes, I have children of my own and they can be (comfortable) on this front.”
Lars Mikael Jensen, head of the global ocean network at Maersk, said the shortage of truck drivers has slowed the time it takes to empty and collect containers.
“We had to stop operations on a ship because there was nowhere to unload the containers,” he said.
“Felixstowe is one of the two or three worst hit terminals.
“We need to remove some of the larger ships from Felixstowe and relocate some of the smaller ships for cargo.
“We did it for a while over the summer and now we’re starting again.”
The backlog at Felixstowe, which handles 36% of the UK’s freight container volume, will add to concerns about how UK industry will tackle the crucial Christmas season.
Mr Jensen also warned that this could mean retailers are being forced to prioritize what they ship in order to deal with the congestion.
A port spokesman said: “Like other major ports in the UK and beyond, the Port of Felixstowe is experiencing the effects of the global supply chain crisis.
“The vast majority of import containers are cleared for collection within minutes of their arrival, and there are over 1,000 unused transport bookings on most days.
“The situation is improving and there is more free space for import containers this week than there has been since early July, when the effects of the supply chain first began to take hold.
“The vacancy rate in the containers remains high as import containers are being returned, and we ask the shipping companies to remove them as soon as possible.”
The shortage of truck drivers has contributed to disruption in UK ports.
Tim Morris, chief executive officer of the UK Major Ports Group, said commercial ports have “become the jam between swelling, volatile shipping and UK supply chains, heavily influenced by factors such as the shortage of truck drivers”.
He said: “Ports have taken significant steps to respond to the challenges and build resilience.
“They have extended the door opening to around the clock, increased the capacity for trucks at peak times, tried to maximize rail freight traffic within the significant constraints of the network, created additional storage space and employed more employees.
“But the pressure is exacerbated by well-publicized issues affecting all UK supply chains, particularly the shortage of truck drivers.
“Ports must therefore manage access to storage space very dynamically in extreme situations. This can mean some very limited short term restrictions.
“Ports strive to work closely with customers and entire supply chains to keep goods moving.”
And during a visit to a truck training center near Oldham in the Greater Manchester area, Labor chief Sir Keir Starmer said the shortage was “absolutely foreseeable”.
Speaking to broadcasters, he said: “We have to get the drivers back on the road as soon as possible, as we have already seen the effects on fuel consumption over the past few weeks.
“Now we’re seeing the effects on deliveries and that will last weeks and months until Christmas.
“And I think everyone will say we have to do something about it, we have to set up this training.
“But for God’s sake that was predicted, it was totally predictable, and the government didn’t respond.
“We knew when we left the EU that we were going to need a Plan B regarding drivers, we knew the pandemic would have an impact and here we are in the middle of a crisis and have: what? A prime minister who is missing in action. “
Other locations around the world have also suffered significant delays.
Retailers have highlighted particular issues in China and East Asia, where pandemic restrictions and bad weather conditions have impacted shipping.
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