The Port of Felixstowe has apologised for disruption to hauliers after a perfect storm of surging import volumes, empty containers and Covid-19 led to long delays at the country’s largest container terminal.

In a statement, the port said it was increasing its vehicle booking system (VBS) availability, opening on Sundays for haulage collections and attempting to slow down the number of empty containers being returned in an effort to keep on top of the disruption.

“The situation has been caused by a sharp spike in import container volumes, along with a high proportion of late vessel arrivals,” it said. “The weekly import volume for the last two weeks has been over 30% higher than average levels.

“This is exacerbated by unusually high levels of empty containers at the port and the impact of the ongoing Covid-19 crisis on resource availability.

“As a result, our service standards are not currently where we would like them to be and we apologise for any inconvenience caused.”

Earlier this week, supply chain management firm Woodland Group in Chelmsford warned of “industry-wide disruption” at Felixstowe and said that the port had hit capacity, with warehouses unable to store empty containers.

The British International Freight Association (BIFA) said the current problems could be traced back to 2018 when Felixstowe undertook “a disastrous migration to a new in-house terminal operating system”.

Robert Keen, BIFA director general, said: “Members have suffered from two years of poor service from the port, and it is high time that it considers BIFA members as direct customers of the port, and shows some willingness to discuss compensation for the damage caused and the increased costs that have been incurred by those members.”

The port did not respond to enquiries.