Post-Brexit UK ports suffer container logjams
The UK’s leading container terminals
struggled to cope with the pandemic driven surge of imports last year resulting
in lengthy delays for hauliers and vessels and an excess of containers building
up in ports.
Since the UK departed the European Union on
January 1 and started trading under a post-Brexit customs and regulatory
regime, the latest data from Container xChange, the world’s leading online
platform for buying, selling and leasing shipping containers, indicates the
situation has worsened.
Under Container xChange’s Container
Availability Index (CAx), an index reading of 0.5 describes a balanced market.
Below 0.5 means there is a shortage of containers. Above 0.5 means there is an
excess of containers.
At the port of Felixstowe the average reading
of the CAx so far in 2021 for a 40 ft container is 0.95, up from 0.79 in 2020.
The CAx for a 20 ft box has increased from an average of 0.78 in 2020 to 0.90
A similar picture is apparent at the port of
Southampton where the CAx reading for a 40 ft container is 0.86 in 2021, up
from an average of 0.71 last year. For a 20 ft container the CAx reading is
0.85, up from an average of 0.72 in 2020.
“The UK’s leading gateway terminals for
container traffic suffered congestion for much of 2020 prompting carriers to
cut some calls and ship cargo in from European hubs via the Channel Tunnel,
ferry services and feeder services instead,” said Dr Johannes Schlingmeier, CEO
of Container xChange.
“Based on the build-up of containers at ports
in 2021, it seems the situation has further deteriorated. We are now seeing
critical levels of boxes building up at Southampton and Felixstowe. Post-Brexit
cross-Channel shipments are more complicated under dual-Customs regimes and
this could be a factor in logistics bottlenecks.”
Efforts by container lines to avoid Brexit
disruption and delays at southern terminals by launching new services into the
port of Liverpool are also now coming unstuck, with the port struggling to
handle increased volumes. This is reflected in an accelerating excess of
containers at the port.
In 2020 the average CAx reading at the port
of Liverpool for a 40 ft container was 0.59. In 2021 this has climbed t0 0.75.
For a 20 ft container the CAx reading in 2021 is 0.82, up from an average of
0.68 last year.
European gateway ports have also suffered
disruptions and delays due to pandemic driven container traffic surges.
However, container availability at leading hubs is currently better balanced
than in the UK.
At the port of Rotterdam, the CAx average
reading for a 40 ft container this year is 0.51, compared to an average of 0.40
in 2020. At Antwerp, shortages have been a problem, with an average reading for
a 40 ft container of 0.21 in 2020 improving to a more balanced 0.41 this year.
Similarly, at Hamburg, the average CAx
reading for a 40 ft container in 2020 was 0.27 suggesting critical shortages.
This year the average reading has improved to 0.49.