Hauliers are calling on the Port of Felixstowe to get its house in order and tackle “outrageously long delays” at the port before the Christmas rush.

Shipping lines cannot offload containers at the port because of lack of space and are having to re-route to other ports, including those based in mainland Europe whilst hauliers are reporting long queues at the port as goods are delayed.

Last week, Taiwanese shipping firm Evergreen was forced to redirect one of its ships which was headed for Felixstowe to Rotterdam where it then ferried the goods back via Thamesport.

The firm said Felixstowe Port had told it that a berthing slot would not be available for 10 days after the ship's scheduled arrival.

The RHA said these delays and congestion at the port are having a knock on effect at other ports and adding increased costs to hauliers.

The association also raised concern about the delayed delivery of 11,000 containers of PPE ordered by the government, which are stuck in a queue at the port’s quayside.

The RHA warned that the delays will only add more pressure to hauliers already hit by the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Rod McKenzie, RHA MD for policy and public affairs, said: “Managing Britain's biggest and busiest container port is a massive logistical challenge at the best of times but since the implementation of nGen, Felixstowe’s own terminal-management platform back in 2018, productivity has dropped considerably. Not because it’s a bad system but because it was given insufficient time to ‘bed in’. This is a very serious problem which could have a critical effect on Christmas."

Read more

McKenzie also criticised the port for failing to consider its customers’ needs.

He said: “The port’s behaviour is monopolistic with a focus on its own interests not its customers. Urgent change is needed and its current moribund management approach has to end fast. Some lorries are facing outrageously long delays accessing the port.”

“A combination of the poor performance of nGen, Christmas, COVID-19 and the end of the Brexit transition period at the end of the year have created the perfect storm.

He called for the owners to better communicate with its customers.

“To clear the backlog and get on top of the situation will take at least until the first quarter of 2021. The Port of Felixstowe must be far more transparent and increase communication with its key stakeholders; the shipping lines and the hauliers.

He continued: “The current situation cannot continue. Shipping lines cannot offload containers because of lack of space and are having to re-route to other ports, including those based in mainland Europe. This just adds to further instability at other ports and adds to the cost for importers and of course hauliers.

McKenzie called for action by the port’s owners. He said: “This untenable situation must be resolved as quickly as possible. Container Tetris is the one game we certainly don’t want to be playing this Christmas.

Felixstowe Port owner Hutchison Ports UK blamed pre-Brexit stockpiling and the pandemic for the delays.

On its website the company said delays at Felixstowe would continue "at least into December and possibly through into the New Year".

In a statement Hutchinson Ports UK said: “The imbalance in UK trade and Brexit stockpiling exacerbate current operational challenges and we are working with our customers and stakeholders to get through the current congestion.

"Performance at the port remains under pressure due to the Covid pandemic, high levels of import traffic, the large number of empty containers and a large amount of unusually long-stay containers held at the port."