It could take five years for UK ports to get back to pre-pandemic freight levels, with rising costs, bottlenecks, driver shortages and Brexit delaying recovery. In 2022, there could be even more disruption due to labour disputes and logistics issues, costing British businesses millions. According to research published by Asset Alliance Group, port delays have already caused 1 in 5 companies to lose potential business.
With almost 40 million tonnes of cargo handled in the first three quarters of last year, London is the busiest port in the country, followed by Grimsby & Immingham in Lincolnshire, handling 36.8 million tonnes. The Port of Felixstowe (pictured) is actually Britain’s largest and busiest, but it had the most cancellations of any European port in the last half of 2021, putting it in seventh place.
Due to supply chain issues, the country currently has the highest shipping costs on the continent – three of the 10 busiest ports in the UK are also the most expensive in Europe. The average cost of sending a 20ft container from the world’s busiest port in Shanghai to the UK is 24% higher than any other port on the continent. Liverpool, Southampton and London cost more per journey than the European average of £6,409, at £9,112, £8,306 and £7,900 respectively.
Bottlenecks and delays
Port bottlenecks and increased stockpiling are still widespread, and 75% of companies in the container logistics industry plan to rethink their logistics strategy for 2022. One of the biggest challenges this year for more than half of those surveyed is finding slots on vessels. The HGV driver shortage is another major blocker. Haulage shortages at the country’s busiest ports cause delays of up to 10 days.
Fortunately, it looks like the driver shortage is slowly improving. With a gap of around 45,000 drivers, 27,144 HGV vocational tests were taken at the end of last year – a 54% increase on the year before.
Businesses can do a few things to plan around delays and bottlenecks this year:
- Investigate backup transportation: Some companies are looking at emergency transportation backup, like air, rail or road, to avoid potential lost sales or delays.
- Use alternative routes: Not all ports are equally congested, and rerouting could be a successful strategy, provided there are enough drivers to access alternative ports.
- Source from alternative suppliers: With most companies reviewing their sustainability policies and looking to domestic sourcing, alternative suppliers could eliminate the need to use ports.
“With sites located close to all the major ports – Manchester, central to Liverpool and Grimsby /Immingham; Ipswich covering London and Felixstowe; Newmains supporting Scotland; and our new office in Belfast covering Northern Ireland – we are situated ideally to support those who choose shipping via port or air for their freight movement,” says Brian Kempson, Sales Director, Truck and Trailer Sales, Asset Alliance Group.