UK Ports Buckle Under Abnormal Increases in Volume

Terminal congestion at the London Gateway and Southampton ports, the second and third largest ports in the UK, threatens to wreak havoc on supply chains, as retailers struggle to fill their shelves for the holiday season rush.

In a letter to customers, Hapag-Lloyd advised it was “experiencing congestion in the berthing plan and container yard” at London Gateway.  “In recent weeks, this has resulted in several port omissions, cut-and-runs and move-count restrictions,” it said, adding that COVID-secure measures, transport shortages, bad weather, and “abnormal increases in volume” were contributing factors.

In response to increased congestion at Southampton, CMA CGM announced it would levy a port congestion surcharge of $150 per TEU on all imports to Southampton, claiming its operations costs at the port had increased “significantly over the past weeks.”

Many logistics professionals are blaming the congestion at London Gateway and Southampton on the well-documented VBS delays at Felixstowe, the county’s largest container terminal.  Port users and freight trade associations have warned that Felixstowe was “grinding to a virtual standstill at peak times.”  According to the Felixstowe Port User’s Association (FPUA), VBS slots were only running 180 per hour, compared with 240 an hour 10 years ago, and container moves per crane had fallen to 16, compared with 30 at other UK ports.

While the FPUA acknowledges that the port of Felixstow has been at a virtual standstill  in recent months, the issue is being blamed on labor shortages.  But chronic congestion has plagued the Hutchinson Ports’ facility since last year’s disastrous implementation of a new terminal operating system.

One haulier told The LOADSTAR, “Due to the ineptness of Felixstowe, shippers are using lines that run into Southampton and Gateway, which are now absorbing the extra work, which is causing delays in terminals.  We have completely avoided Felixstowe during the day and now only move out of there during the night.”





  • The LOADSTAR, Importers angry as UK box ports buckle under ‘abnormal demand’