© Martin Hatch felixstowe
© Martin Hatch

Forwarders claim to have been ‘left in the dark’ over delays to rail, road and shipside container movements at the port of Felixstowe, linked to implementation of a new IT system.

The Hutchison-operated port installed the nGen terminal system on Sunday, but despite claiming a “successful migration”, carriers have reported severe delays and cancellations.

Yesterday, Maersk Line issued a customer advisory warning customers of “severe delays and cancellations across all areas of port operations, including rail, road and shipside container moves”.

One forwarder told The Loadstar attempts to overcome the problem were “not going well”.

“Hutchison says things are going well, but we know this is not the case as we are not able to get any of our boxes out,” said the source. “We have been left in the dark with no sense that the problem is being resolved, and we are seeing some carriers already opting to bypass Felixstowe.”

According to the source, at one stage the port was struggling to unload more than eight containers an hour, with vessels either being turned away or anchored awaiting a berth.

MSC’s Cristina, which according to marinetraffic.com was due to arrive at Felixstowe today, is shown as waiting offshore and will not come along quayside until midday tomorrow, according to one source. Another of the carrier’s vessels omitted its Felixstowe call altogether, he added. Marinetraffic.com shows MSC’s Charleston is at Thamesport, rather than Felixstowe, where it was due yesterday.

A spokesperson for Felixstowe told The Loadstar: “We introduced nGen, Hutchison’s proprietary terminal operating system, at the port of Felixstowe on Sunday. All data was successfully migrated to the new system, which is now operational.

“We have undertaken extensive training and testing, but it was always expected that there would be some short-term reduction in performance as people got used to the new system, and as it was integrated with existing systems.

“There have been some delays, but we have a highly experienced team working with us who have installed nGen at 25 terminals around the world and we are confident that all operations will soon return to normal.”

In a separate statement, issued to customers and seen by The Loadstar, the port describes the implementation of any major operating system as a “complex process”, adding: “We are currently experiencing system communication inconsistencies within the container yard which are having a knock-on effect on yard performance.

“All our container yards remain open, processing over 3,800 trucks yesterday, and the team is working to resolve the issues with normal operations expected to resume in 24-36 hours.”

However, our source expressed concern that if the problem was not resolved today, there could be backlogs of two or even three days.

The vehicle booking system has been the main victim of the wider system failure, with import deliveries starting to be affected, he said.

“Of course, the port is going to have to use export resources to clear the imports backlog, which means it’s only a matter of time before exports are affected,” added the source.

“The bottom line is that anyone calling at Felixstowe is going to be affected by this, and if Maersk isn’t getting any help, what does this mean for smaller carriers?”

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