Container hauliers are battling against the knock-on effects of an eight day strike by dockworkers at Felixstowe Port which kicked off yesterday (21 August).

The strike was called after Unite the union, which represents 1,900 dock workers rejected the Port of Felixstowe’s offer of a 7% pay rise and a £500 one-off bonus.

The strike is expected to create significant supply chain problems since the port handles 40% of the UK’s container trade, equivalent to 4 million containers a year.

Shipping company Maersk has announced it will divert three services as a result of the strike, with the containers on those vessels landed at alternative ports in Europe and transferred back to Felixstowe or to an alternative UK port based on customer preferences.

Adam Searle, MD of Felixstowe-based container haulage firm CP Transport told MT the company has taken measures to offset the initial impact of the strike. His company runs a fleet of 54 trucks and also uses around the same number of owner-drivers.

He said: “On Friday and Saturday we tried to get ahead of the curve by preloading those containers that would have gone out on Monday and some of those for Tuesday. But come Wednesday we will have 100% of our trucks back in the depot.

"As of today we have 20 trucks laid up and that will increase to 40 on Tuesday and 60 on Wednesday.”

Searle believes the deal that Unite strikes with the port will be replicated across UK ports and beyond. Unite national officer Robert Morton has indicated that an offer between "7% and 12.3%" would be "acceptable".

Searle expressed frustration that Unite did not put the offer of 7% to its members. “I am from Felixstowe, and I know a lot of Felixstowe Port workers and all the ones I know said they would have accepted 7%.”

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He added: “It is a Mexican stand-off - the acid test. Liverpool is asking for a similar deal. If Felixstowe gets 11%, then other ports will follow.”

Felixstowe container firm VKVP Haulage said it is currently running on reduced capacity with 50 trucks on the road today, compared to the usual total of 80 trucks.

Operations director Mark Bennett said the company had preloaded some containers over the weekend and had taken measures to take on business in Southampton and London Gateway but said opportunity was limited.

“A lot of vessels are anchoring offshore and in Europe until the strike is over and London Gateway does not have the capacity for more volume at the moment. They have a shipping schedule and to take additional vessels is not viable,” he explained.

Bennett believes the impact of the strike on the supply chain will continue for some time, even if it is resolved after eight days. “Who is to say it will only last eight days? If it is not resolved they could come back and do it for another two weeks,” he said, adding that, with the Bank Holiday looming and a reduced working week, he believes the reverberations of this week’s strike will continue for some time.

A spokesman for Felixstowe-based Portman Logistics told MT the company had made contingency plans ahead of the strike and so far had 70% of its fleet in operation but added that “the problem will grow worse as the week goes on”.

He added: “We knew this was coming and we have encouraged customers to put containers on ships coming into other ports so for us it has been minimal disruption so far.

“We have also tried switching to other work but everyone else is in the same situation – there are too many mouths to feed.”

He added that the company had also preloaded Monday’s containers ahead of the strike.

“With all these strikes there is going to be a winter of discontent and the impact will cascade down,” he warned.