UK businesses have warned that the delays at Felixstowe would amount to millions of pounds in lost revenue over the Christmas period.
Jack Griffiths, founder of fashion firm Snuggy, said his business is heading for a loss of at least half a million pounds in its busiest season.
Felixstowe, which is the UK’s largest commercial port, currently has 50,000 containers waiting to be collected due to a shortage of truck drivers.
“All of our five deliveries – amounting to Â£ 1million in stock – are currently at sea or blocked in port,” Jack told the Mirror. âWe were told it could take up to six weeks for the products to reach our warehouses.
âWe have over 500 pre-orders and a huge customer waiting list,â added the 26-year-old, âbut our stock is stuck across the country.â
âThe freight drivers we use have told us that we won’t be able to book anything for at least four weeks.
âAs we get closer to Christmas and the busy season, we can only see the situation get worse.
âThe problem is that containers arriving in England sit idle at the port because there are no drivers to bring them to our warehouse in Teeside.
âOne of our five deliveries from China arrived, but we were told it would stay in Felixstowe until a truck was available. We will receive it no earlier than November 8.
Jack – who discovered the delays on social media – is also concerned about four more shipments that will arrive in the coming weeks.
âIf they don’t make it to our warehouse before Black Friday, it could void Christmas completely for us.
âThat’s Â£ 1million in shares and Â£ 500,000 lost. It also means we won’t be able to offer Christmas jobs that would have really supported our region.
Jack says it’s been one obstacle after another since the UK moved away from the European Union.
In April, Snuggy’s stock worth Â£ 400,000 was delayed when it got stuck on the ship Ever Given which blocked the Suez Canal.
âWe expected this order to arrive in April, but it actually arrived in mid-September.
âWe now also pay higher tariffs. This means that if a customer purchases an item in Europe, we have to fill out huge volumes of paperwork and the customer then has to pay a tax on the delivery. As a result, we had to stop advertising this service altogether. “
Griffiths says the government must improve working conditions for truck drivers.
âMany drivers have moved to Europe this year and I have friends who work in the industry who refuse to go back because they say it is a toxic workplace.
âHe says the working conditions are horrible and despite helping the world to turn, they don’t get any respect.
“We have to protect them and make sure they get a fair deal.”
Peter Wilson, the boss of global shipping agent Cory Brothers, today warned buyers to plan ahead due to port delays.
He said people should order items “on time” to make sure they arrive on time.
Store shelves would remain stocked, but there might be less choice, he said.
A shortage of heavy truck drivers in the UK means shipping containers are unloaded but left stacked on the quayside awaiting collection.
Gary Grant, boss of one of the UK’s biggest toy vendors, The Entertainer, said his 170 stores looked “very full at the moment”, but added that demand “will exceed availability” as it there are not enough drivers to move the Stock business.
Popular Paw Patrol toys and Barbie dolls are “prime candidates for being short during the Christmas season,” Grant added.
Including Felixstowe, several UK ports could be affected by the supply chain crisis and the shortage of heavy truck drivers in the coming weeks.
Home to the UK’s second largest container terminal, the Port of Southampton is the country’s leading vehicle handling port, with 820,000 vehicles per year, and is Europe’s leading cruise port and port in UK’s most productive container.
It handles over 1.5 million containers each year and clears around 23 containers per day to ship to and from major freight-generating regions including the Midlands, Scotland, the East Coast and the North West.
The UK’s third largest port, Teesport, handles over 56 million tonnes of domestic and international cargo annually.
Based in North Yorkshire, it mainly deals with steel, petrochemicals, manufacturing, engineering and retail.
In London, the Port of London, which handles containers, timber, paper, vehicles, aggregates, crude oil, petroleum products, liquefied, could also be affected.
It has more than 70 independent terminals and port facilities and directly employs more than 30,000 people.
What are we doing to solve the problem?
The government is writing to nearly a million truck drivers to encourage them to return to the industry, but only a few dozen Europeans have reportedly applied so far. Some say the working conditions are just not good enough.
Some employers have increased their wages to attract staff – and Department of Defense examiners have been recruited to increase the number of heavy-duty driving tests.
There will be free intensive “training camps” to train 5,000 people to become heavy truck drivers, and another 1,000 will be trained through courses funded by the adult education budget.
The government has also eased the driving hours rules slightly, meaning that drivers will be able to increase their daily driving limit from nine hours to 11 hours twice a week.
Finally, there is now funding of Â£ 7,000 per person for the Large Vehicle Driver Apprenticeship Program.