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Peel Ports slams Felixstowe and the "southern ports imports gateway supply chain model"

Peel Ports has upped the stakes in its bid to get east-west carriers to call at Liverpool2

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Just a day after reporting that COSCO is putting out feelers – with a trial call by a 1000 TEU feeder that it hopes will lead to bigger and better things, Peel Ports has launched an extraordinary attack on one of its peers, Hutchison Ports Felixstowe, and the wider insistence that deepsea containers are imported over Southern English gateways.


The accusation is essentially the same as the one that Peel ports levelled at the Dover Straits accompanied truck model (ro-paxes and Getlink truck shuttles) earlier this year, in the context of disruptions to frictionless trade post-Brexit. Then, Stephen Carr, Peel Ports’ Commercial Director, said: “The supply chain needs certainty, predictability and resilience, but we all know about the acute delays and problems that already exist at Dover when there’s the slightest disruption to normal operations. There’s a growing realisation in the whole logistics community that we’re at a tipping point that will force traffic away from the Dover Straits.


Currently, more than 75% of all road freight from ports on the near continent passes through the Dover Straits, by ferries or Getlink freight shuttles. The annual market is around 4M units, of which 99% is accompanied.

Liverpool2 is ready and waiting and Peel Ports has embarked on Phase 2 expansion
Liverpool2 is ready and waiting and Peel Ports has embarked on Phase 2 expansion

For the past 2-3 years Peel Ports has been trying to attract deepsea traffic to its new Liverpool2 facility away from the established deepsea ports, by talking about is proximity to the destination points of most deepsea containers imported into the UK, mostly over Felixstowe and Southampton.


But now the company has taken the gloves off.


"Businesses going bust, job losses and rocketing Christmas prices for consumers…That’s the festive doomsday scenario facing the UK’s retail sector as the southern port of Felixstowe - the UK’s busiest container port - hits a cargo loading and unloading backlog," it stated yesterday.


"The legacy of a failed IT rollout in June and ongoing shortage of haulage capacity has resulted in an ongoing packed quayside and half empty warehouses as shipments take up to 14 days to process rather than the usual three to five days.


"Retailers using the port to import goods are now facing increased fees for each container caught in the logjam and unable to move. The price of haulage to take containers which eventually escape to their destination is increasing. Retailers risk losing out on sales at Christmas and Black Friday in late November, crucial periods for them. They may have to lay off staff or even close."


CEO Chief Executive Mark Whitworth said: “When will retailers and importers tell freight forwarders and shipping lines ‘enough is enough’ and demand they bring their goods into the UK via northern ports which have the capacity to process shipments within days rather than weeks?


“Around 60% of containers which enter UK ports are destined for warehouses north of the West Midlands. Even before the current issues at Felixstowe, it made complete sense to avoid the growing congestion both at the southern ports and on the roads and railways used for bringing containers north.


“But the long delays at Felixstowe have now made it an imperative for shipping companies and importers to think again. I’m calling on retailers to avoid a doomsday scenario for themselves, their staff and their customers and demand they look north.

What's that got to do with it?
What's that got to do with it?

“Retailers have to avoid shooting themselves in the foot by continuing to use congested southern ports when an alternative is available.”


Whitworth added: “The message is obviously spreading in the industry that there are great benefits in shipping to the heart of the UK market, but for the sake of the retail sector, more have to make the same decision.


"The perilous state of the UK retail sector is well-documented, with 32 large UK retailers going into administration with resultant economic and social impact since 2008 - a string of retailers from Toys Я Us and Maplin to House of Fraser and BHS, and others like Mothercare and Carpetright resorting to company voluntary arrangements. Even star companies are not immune, with Superdry this week issuing a profits warning."


These companies’ problems are nothing to do with where their containers enter the country, so to that extent Whitworth has overegged the pudding.


Even before this summer’s congestion at Felixstowe, which then spread to Southampton as carriers diverted calls, shippers and forwarders were making increasing use of Liverpool and the port’s container traffic is up a around 9% year to date. Regular callers include Maersk, MSC (including services diverted from Felixstowe, ACL and CMA CGM.


  • In its latest customer newsletter, DP World Southampton says that the laden stacks situation is more or less back to normal, although the empty stacks are still causing concern. Extended landside working hours remain. As laden box traffic is heavily biased to import cargo, the EC situation suggests that carriers are not waiting to backhaul empties.
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