The UK’s biggest container port has seen a recent return of landside congestion, leading to a temporary ban on empty container restitution, rail move caps and its biggest customer looking at alternative routes.

Last week, MSC took the rare step of advising customers it was taking action to minimise disruption to its shippers at Felixstowe; due, it said, “to continued congestion” at the UK east coast hub.

MSC’s frustration followed just days after the Hutchison-owned port lifted a ban on the return of empty containers to its “over-full” parks.

Felixstowe chief operating officer Stephen Abraham blamed the previous congestion on “a significant number of off-slot vessels”; an “imbalance between outbound and inbound container flows” and “the demise of Hanjin Shipping”.

He noted that there were “over 10,000 stranded [Hanjin] empties at the port with little prospect of immediate evacuation”.

It’s understood that like many ports and depots around the world since Hanjin’s collapse on 31 August, Felixstowe is “stuck” with the South Korean carrier’s empty containers awaiting the conclusion of a myriad of legal action, including its own over outstanding stevedoring and storage charges.

On September 23, Mr Abraham advised that an improved situation at the port meant that the empty container restriction would be removed as from the day shift on Sunday September 25.

However, one local haulier told The Loadstar that landside congestion at the port had only worsened.

“We just have no idea how long to allow for our drivers to get tipped, and it’s getting worse,” he said.

Clearly, MSC has also lost patience, prompting it to put out the customer advisory, which would not have happened until all its normal channels had been exhausted.

The timing of the return of congestion is bad news for Felixstowe – two new vessel-sharing alliances are currently drafting their network plans in readiness for next April, while the 2M’s network offer in theory is unchanged as it stands.

Despite current problems, it is assumed that the 2M alliance of Maersk and MSC, along with the proposed addition of Hyundai Merchant Marine, will retain its current calls at Felixstowe – although the return of congestion at the port will not go down well in Copenhagen or Geneva, and there could be pressure to increase the number of calls at Southampton, transfer a string to London Gateway, or feeder from the continent.

And, there is mounting speculation among the UK liner community that the Ocean Alliance grouping of CMA CGM (including APL), Cosco, Evergreen and OOCL will opt for Southampton as its main UK hub.

This leaves THE Alliance – Hapag-Lloyd (including UASC), K Line, MOL, NYK and Yang Ming – rumoured to be negotiating with both DP World ports of Southampton and London Gateway.


Leave a Reply

  • jason

    October 04, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    Well serve the port right, charging £ 460.00 per container multiplied by 10000 containers = £4,600,00.00 and they have all Hanjins containers.
    I doubt Hanjin owed Hutchinson Felixstowe. We hope liners move to London Gateway or Southampton , much better ports.

  • Andy Lane

    October 04, 2016 at 2:27 pm

    A text book case of short term versus longer term strategy.

    It is fully understandable and natural that PoF would wish to recoup through retaining Hanjin’s empty containers the money which they are owed. So that deals with the short-term.

    When such a “strategy” impacts your sustainable Customers (2M), and risk increases that they re-locate away some volumes, the longer term strategy has not been considered.

    An Alliance only needs a single terminal/port when a lot of transhipment cargo is involved. For gateways to hinterlands, there is very limited inefficiency in having two or more terminals/ports.

    The guys at DPW must be smiling like Cheshire cats right now 🙂

  • Mike

    October 05, 2016 at 11:31 am

    Liverpool has a nice new deep water dock waiting to be used…