Felixstowe suffering problems

Sea Freight Rates

Felixstowe, the port on the South East coast of England, continues to be a troubled place.

Over the past week, there have been a number of reports that the port is struggling with congestion making life difficult for shippers, road hauliers and shipping lines.

One of the latest developments has been the announcement on Monday (September 21) by the shipping line CMA CGM that it was introducing a ‘Port Congestion Surcharge’ of $150 per TEU for services originating in Asia, starting in October. The explanation for this was that “due to a combination of factors, including a significant increase in import container arrivals, reduced terminal productivity due to COVID safe working practices and the deep cleaning required at each shift changeover, and reduced driver availability in the container sector, the operational costs have significantly increased in Felixstowe terminal over the past weeks”.

The port has acknowledged that it is “currently experiencing a high demand for both road and rail capacity” due to “a sharp spike in import container volumes, along with a high proportion of late vessel arrivals. The weekly import volume for the last two weeks has been over 30% higher than average levels. This has been exacerbated by unusually high levels of empty containers at the port and the impact of the ongoing COVID-19 crisis on resource availability.”

Problems seem to be focussed on the ‘vehicle booking system’ which manages trucks entering the terminal. Such IT vulnerabilities are not new. Two years ago, the port introduced a new IT system developed by its parent company Hutchison Ports. The roll-out did not go entirely smoothly and operations came to a near standstill. These problems were said to have been resolved, but the present problems suggest that the information architecture has remained fragile. At a commercial level, for many years shippers and logistics providers have complained that communication with Felixstowe was difficult compared to other British ports.

The terminal complex at Felixstowe is growing and seeing considerable investment in new capacity for both container and ro-ro traffic. It remains an important call on the Hamburg-Le Havre range but the threat from neighbouring ports, such as London Gateway, has strengthened over the past few years as they exploit Felixstowe’s problems.

Source: Transport Intelligence, September 24, 2020

Author: Thomas Cullen

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