Supermarkets are looking for alternative ways to bring groceries to the UK as ships are diverted from the UK’s main port due to traffic jams.
The British Retail Consortium said “further disruptions” in supply chains may be “inevitable” after Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company, said it was diverting large ships because major UK ports are overcrowded.
The overload is due to the lack of truck drivers who could move the unloaded containers to save space.
During a visit to a truck training center near Oldham in the Greater Manchester area, Labor chief Sir Keir Starmer said the shortage was “absolutely foreseeable”.
“We knew when we left the EU that we were going to need a Plan B regarding drivers, we knew the pandemic was going to have an impact and here we are in the middle of a crisis and have: what? A prime minister who is missing in action. “
Maersk has announced that it will divert larger ships from Felixstowe Port in Suffolk, the gateway for 36 percent of the country’s shipping containers. Instead, goods destined for the UK are being reloaded onto small ships, delaying arrival time.
Lars Mikael Hensen, head of the global ocean network at Maersk, said The Financial Times on Monday: “We had to stop operations on a ship because the containers could not be unloaded anywhere.
“Felixstowe is one of the two or three worst hit terminals [globally]. We need to remove some of the larger ships from Felixstowe and relocate some of the smaller ships for cargo. ”
He added, “We’ve been doing it for a while over the summer and now we’re starting again.”
The British Retail Consortium announced on Tuesday that the traffic jam in Felixstowe was another consequence of the ongoing truck driver shortage. Andrew Opie, Director Food and Sustainability, explains: “Since the cargo cannot be removed quickly enough, there is a container stowage in the ports that prevents new ships from docking and unloading.”
The organization, which includes most of the retailers and supermarkets as a member, said that “retailers are working closely with suppliers to mitigate problems, including finding alternative routes to get goods into the country, but further disruptions may be inevitable” .
They called on the government to extend the temporary visa system to increase the pool of available truck drivers.
The UK port operators’ trade organization also announced Tuesday that some ports are managing storage facilities with “short-term restrictions”.
Tim Morris, Chief Executive of the UK Major Ports Group, said: “As the UK’s gateways for 95 percent of trade, ports are the clamp between erratic, volatile shipping and UK supply chains, heavily influenced by factors such as the truck driver Bottlenecks. “
He said the ports are now operating around the clock and have increased the capacity for trucks to ease the pressure.
He added: “Ports must therefore manage access to storage space very dynamically in extreme situations. This can mean some very limited short term restrictions. “
Trade magazine, The grocer, reported that many shipping containers in Felixstowe now spend around 10 days in port before being picked up, up from a typical average of four and a half days.
Tesco has already announced that it will make greater use of rail freight transport to reduce the impact of driver shortages on the inventory.
CEO Ken Murphy said the supermarket has set a goal of delivering 90,000 40-foot containers of goods per year by rail by the end of 2021, up from around 65,000 currently.