The expected strike at the Port of Felixstowe could disrupt UK supply chains, but it could also create a new opportunity for less congested neighboring ports, according to a new report from VesselsValue.
Felixstowe is the UK’s largest container port, handling around four million TEUs of cargo a year, and it is a vital link in the chain for UK imports and exports. It also experiences more congestion than its neighboring peers. Although hardly comparable to week-long waits outside many major US container ports, Felixstowe experienced average wait times of up to 40 hours in March, and today it has a Longer average wait than Southampton and London Gateway. Both offer near-immediate docking in hours (or less), according to VesselsValue.
“Logistics planners and supply chain managers will be keen to monitor developments at Felixstowe,” Vivek Srivastava, senior trade flow analyst at VesselsValue, said in a research note Thursday. “Alternatives exist for lines and shippers with any degree of flexibility.”
Felixstowe handles more ultra-large container ships than Southampton and London Gateway combined, but the latter two ports have berths that can accommodate ULCVs. Lines could also divert to Wilhelmshaven, Germany, then load UK-bound freight onto feeder ships. Many smaller UK ports receive a substantial amount of feeder traffic (Immingham, Tilbury, Teesport, Liverpool, Hull, Belfast and Grangemouth), and they could see their fortunes increase if more East Asian goods to the United Kingdom ended up being transhipped via major ports. in continental Europe.
This arrangement has already happened. After a recent traffic jam, the 2M alliance has diverted its AE7 East Asia service from Felixstowe to Wilhelmshaven. “Depending on the type of vessel, other UK ports may also be considered,” Srivastava said.
In 2018, the deployment of a new Terminal Operating System (TOS) software platform at Felixstowe caused severe disruption at the port. In response, the 2M alliance moved its TA4 service from Felixstowe to Liverpool, then diverted the AE7 service to London Gateway. The TA4 rotation remained permanently at Liverpool after Felixstowe’s software issues were resolved.