Supermarkets are searching for alternative ways to bring food into Britain as ships are diverted from the UK’s main port due to congestion.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said “further disruption” to supply chains may be “unavoidable” after Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company, said that it was directing big vessels away because main UK ports are chock-a-block.
The congestion is down to a lack of HGV drivers available to move the unloaded containers to free up space.
Maersk has said that it has started to reroute bigger ships away from Felixstowe port in Suffolk, the gate way for 36 per cent of the country’s shipping containers. Instead, goods destined for the UK are being transferred onto small ships, delaying the time it takes for things to arrive.
Lars Mikael Jensen, head of global ocean network at Maersk, told the Financial Times: “We had to stop operations on a ship because there was nowhere to discharge the containers.
“Felixstowe is among the top two or three worst-hit terminals [globally]. We are having to deviate some of the bigger ships away from Felixstowe and relay some of the smaller ships for the cargo.”
He added: “We did it for a little while over the summer and now we’re starting to do it again.”
The BRC said on Tuesday that the congestion at Felixstowe was another consequence of the ongoing HGV driver shortage. Andrew Opie, the organisation’s director of food and sustainability, explained: “As cargo cannot be removed fast enough, there is a backlog of containers at the ports which are preventing new ships from docking and unloading.”
The organisation, which counts most high street retailers and supermarkets as members, said that “retailers are working closely with suppliers to mitigate issues, including finding alternative routes to bring good into the country, but further disruption may be unavoidable.”
They called on the government to extend the temporary visa scheme to increase the pool of available HGV drivers.
Photo – Containers are unloaded from ships at the Port of Felixstowe, Britain. EPA-EFE/NEIL HALL