Forget Christmas – that ship may have already sailed

With large container ships unable to unload at Felixstowe, thousands of Christmas gifts are sailing into the sunset, warns ParcelHero. A Dunkirk-style flotilla of smaller ships from Europe might just save the day.

The home delivery expert ParcelHero says the next two weeks are critical for retailers stocking their warehouses for Christmas, but a massive bottleneck at Felixstowe means container ships loaded with toys and gifts are now sailing away to EU ports.

ParcelHero’s Head of Consumer Research, David Jinks M.I.L.T. says: ‘There was a huge build-up of containers at the Port of Felixstowe, the country’s largest port, where 36% of all containers should arrive. It created a shipping log-jam. Because of the bottleneck, Maersk, the world’s largest shipping company, is diverting its biggest container ships away from the UK to EU ports.

‘Maersk is re-routing large container ships, groaning with goods ready for Christmas, to ports across Europe in the hope they can eventually reach the UK via road and ferry, or on a flotilla of smaller ships. Maersk’s boss of global ocean networks, Lars Mikael Jensen, has told the ‘Financial Times’: ‘We are having to deviate some of the bigger ships away from Felixstowe and relay some of the smaller ships for the cargo.’

‘That means Britain’s Christmas is relying on a Dunkirk-style removal of goods from Europe onto smaller ships bound for ports across the UK. That looks to be the only way to bring many of Britain’s Christmas gifts safely home.

‘The problems at Felixstowe means Christmas 2021 is now at DEFCON 2. Covid-19 and the boom in e-commerce had a huge impact on Christmas last year, but in retrospect those difficulties look like child’s play compared to this year’s potential problems.

‘Britain’s acute truck driver shortage means containers are taking way too long to be loaded onto lorries and leave ports. Britain’s escalating truck driver shortage means it is taking about ten days before cargo at Felixstowe can be unloaded, up from the usual four and-a-half days.  That’s why Maersk has chosen to avoid Felixstowe by using EU ports to land goods destined for the UK. This will add new delays, especially with Brexit checks in place.

‘There’s little prospect that we will get the 100,000 extra truck drivers that most experts believe we need. The Government’s grudging issue of 5,000 extra visas for overseas drivers won’t begin to solve the problem. That means port delays will only escalate as more container ships loaded with Christmas stock try to berth.

‘There are significant shipping delays across the world, caused largely by new outbreaks of Covid at ports in China. Not only are all the manufactured goods they contain not being shipped, but the containers are then needed to ship other goods elsewhere. Without the containers, goods can’t be shipped. It’s a chicken and egg situation. However, the UK’s particular labour shortage problems, created by Brexit, have severely exacerbated the problem here.

Retailers are going to have to re-prioritise their orders from overseas, and shoppers will need to pounce on items online and in-store as early as possible, in case shortages escalate further.

‘Furthermore, the driver shortage is just the tip of the iceberg in terms of the impact of Brexit on the UK’s freight infrastructure. ParcelHero’s in-depth analysis of the ongoing UK-EU trade problems and, in particular, the Northern Ireland Protocol agreement — which the EU will be revealing its new plans for later today — can be seen at:  https://www.parcelhero.com/research/brexit-study