Loadstar recently reported that high levels of congestion at major container gateways have led to declining direct port calls by mainline Asia-North Europe vessels, and increased the likelihood that the UK could become a feeder market.
Anthony Plummer, UK Managing Director Ligentia Enterprise explains; "It has been suggested that the UK could become a feeder port for over 20 years with no moves by the shipping lines to make this reality. Adding in transhipments is costly for the shipping lines as it increases vessel time in port as well as container handling costs and is therefore not always the best solution. Transit times are also increased which makes this an unattractive option for many supply chains. With many of the Northern European ports also experiencing congestion, adding in transhipments is simply moving the problem around. Whilst the UK does have a number of smaller local ports, many of these lack the infrastructure to handle larger vessels or volumes.
"The solution lies with efficient management of ports and the hinterland infrastructure, i.e. being able to move containers off the quay quickly and smoothly, and therefore increasing levels of port productivity. The recent issues seen in UK and global ports have been due to a number of issues such as reduced work force due to Covid, long standing containers on the quay and a surge in import volumes. However, these short term issues are unlikely to cause a wholesale removal of direct vessel calls to the UK market. These are large issues that need to be tackled by the ports and government together, but there are also measures that individual companies can take to mitigate risks of delay in ports."
The pressures of Covid and Brexit have forced many supply chains to be re-engineered and we would recommend:
- A review of all lead-times and buffers in the supply chain
- Re-calculations of levels of stock held in the UK
- Using multiple lines and main ports of entry to the UK
- Smoothing flows of products into the UK, i.e. frequent, smaller shipments to avoid 6 months stock being impacted if 1 vessel is delayed