Bad weather, which began last week, has forced the intermittent suspension of operations at Southampton, exacerbating ongoing issues at the port with high import volumes, mounting stacks of empty containers and a shortage of haulage.

Truck turnaround times at the terminal, which have struggled all week, were impacted again this week, with fog suspending port operations on Sunday and last night, with average turnaround times of 172 minutes reported this morning by DP World.

There are currently 38,444 teu on the terminal and issues with returning empty containers are now spreading to the country’s rail network, as carriers seek alternative exit points for restitutions including Manchester, Liverpool and London Gateway as alternatives.

CMA CGM empties are currently being routed through Portsmouth and loaded onto feeder vessels for shipment to Rotterdam, while Hapag-Lloyd is continuing to restitute empties in Southampton – but only between 8am and 5pm, when most drivers are away from the port area, making deliveries and collections.

Meanwhile, new analysis from DHL suggests a sharp peak season also contributed to the current problems, with import volumes as much as a third higher than normal.

The situation at Felixstowe, London Gateway and Southampton has worsened over the past 10 weeks due to a number of reasons, including high import volumes, the approaching Brexit deadline and peak season preparations, as well as a lack of storage space and yard congestion.

The volume of imports arriving at UK ports has increased following the lifting of some Covid-19 restrictions imposed in the first half of the year.

Weekly import volumes were over 30% above average levels at Felixstowe from early September, as importers sought to replenish stock levels that dropped during the initial lockdown phase.

Haulage capacity is becoming increasingly scarce, with most hauliers booked top for at least two weeks and we would encourage any requirements prior to Christmas to be advised as early as possible.

Container Port. Southampton by Amanda Slater is licensed under CC