The introduction of peak-time charges as part of the Port of Felixstowe’s vehicle booking system (VBS) has been described as unacceptable by container hauliers.

The port has started charging hauliers £1.50 per booking for access between 12pm and 5pm but has suspended proposals to introduce the charge between 5am and 7am.

In a letter to operators, Port of Felixstowe commercial director Paul Wallace said: “For all UK major ports there is a significant daily cost to support the yard resource needed to service haulage demand during these times. As such, we remain committed to the implementation of a nominal charge to cover peak hour VBS bookings.”

In 2011, the Port of Felixstowe decided not to introduce a £2 VBS charge between 1pm and 6pm as a “gesture of goodwill to the haulage community”.

However, Nick Matthews, MD of Roadways Container Logistics, said: “The charge is unacceptable to the haulage community, which is already working on very low margins. I understand there will be no additional VBS slots during peak hours, there is no commitment from the port for faster turnaround times and I am unaware that any additional labour is being brought in.”

He added: “This is a simple case of the port being afraid to raise charges to its clients and attacking the haulage community.”

Another container haulier said the main problem was the timing of the introduction of the charge: “It means that most hauliers have had to go back to customers and amend rates, which is never an easy task.”

He added that the justification for the charge had not been made clear.

“There is also no guarantee that the service level will improve. We will get the charge rebated if it does not perform, but that’s it,” he said. “This is a stealth tax as a result of price wars with London Gateway to keep the business in Felixstowe, the haulage community is a softer target than shipping lines.”