Liverpool container port congestion raises questions over viability as vehicle booking slots become increasingly difficult to obtain and collections that would normally take two hours are now lasting the best part of a day, with restricted haulier access leading to major slowdowns in the flow of cargo.

Hauliers are beginning to pull capacity from the port of Liverpool amid continued delays, but the port insists it is “working round the clock” to resume normal service, and has opened its gates on a 24/7 basis.

Containerised cargo at Liverpool grew last year amid the crisis that hit Felixstowe and its present problems are largely due to the port seeking to attract more services, which has contributed to a surge in demand that has exceeded expectations and operational capability, with the complication of intra-Europe services seeking to use the Mersey gateway.

Turnaround times at Terminal 1 of the Peel Ports-operated Seaforth Gateway have trebled over the past six months, from two to more than six hours, as the shortsea services and associated surge in demand has increased yard density and the number of hauliers, making it hard to shift boxes.

Local hauliers, unable to get a booking slots are refusing to service the port and hauliers from outside the region are refusing to go there, because of the poor productivity, quay rent and detention charges.

It does appear that the port has more ships arriving than it can handle and many are questioning why furloughed staff have not been brought back to work, when the port is understaffed and struggling with VBS availability. 

We have seen hauliers impose demurrage charges for vehicles waiting more than 90 minutes and surcharges for Sunday collections, and we are currently booking slots three days in advance, without a guarantee we will actually get it.

The port has acknowledged the problems and said it had begun working through the backlog and implemented a number of measures it hopes will significantly ease the congestion and delays.

“In further response to growth and demand, we are also introducing measures that will strengthen our ongoing capacity. Having undertaken a heavy recruitment programme of 150 employees at the end of 2020, new operators are due to complete their skilled training and extended weekend opening hours have already been introduced.

“As of this month, the Port of Liverpool will be opening it’s gates on a 24/7 basis right through to Christmas.

“Making the port more accessible over evenings and weekends allows customers who want to take advantage of the additional capacity, the flexibility to do so.”

Located at Felixstowe, the UK’s biggest container port, we also have established operations at Southampton and with 40 commercial ports in the UK, including Liverpool, we select the optimum arrival point for deep and short-sea services, to avoid delays and complete your transit in the shortest possible time.

Please contact your account manager for further details and to discuss your situation and the options available.