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A global shortage of shipping containers is threatening UK supply chains, Walker Logistics warned this week.

The company which offers end-to-end international air, sea, road or rail freight forwarding services is calling on retailers and manufacturers to order early to avoid delay.

The container shortage has been created by a perfect storm of rising online demand for goods during the pandemic lockdown, combined with unprecedented volumes of personal protective equipment and medical supplies passing through the world’s ports.

There has also been a fall in container production due to the pandemic, compounded by delays to container ships transporting goods from Asia due to Covid-19 issues.

The resulting scarcity of containers has pushed up shipping prices to near record highs, with the cost of shipping goods from China to Northern Europe quadrupling in 2020.

Charlie Walker, head of marketing at Walker Logistics said: “The container crisis is increasing the pressure on British retailers and manufacturers at a time when businesses are already having to contend with the impact of Brexit and the pandemic on their profitability.

“Many internet retailers are understood to be running out of stock of certain items while manufacturing firms have reported delays in production as a result of the difficulty of getting vital component parts from Asia.”

He added: “There are stories of British internet retailers opting to burn large quantities of returned clothing stock originally sold to customers in mainland Europe because it is more cost efficient to dispose of returned goods that way than it is to pay for them to be freighted back to the UK.”

Walker is advising businesses importing products from Asia to order their next consignment much earlier than they normally would, if they want to give themselves the best chance of avoiding critical stock shortages.

“The pandemic has resulted in an unusually high demand for goods ordered online. With the logistical bottlenecks affecting imports of products or components from the Far East unlikely to ease until Covid vaccines have been rolled out across the world, UK businesses have to reassess their purchasing strategy,” Walker added.