Image 2_ MSC Nederland at Liverpool2

This story has been updated with the following statement from MSC.

“The Loadstar incorrectly reported that MSC has announced the suspension of bookings of cargo for export from the UK. In fact, MSC continues to accept bookings on all trades and has worked hard to provide continued service to customers amid a challenging and congested market.”

2M partners Maersk and MSC are swapping Felixstowe for Liverpool on their TA2/NEUATL2 transatlantic loop from the end of the year, in order to “provide stability to the service”.

The last sailing from Felixstowe will be by the 8,822 teu MSC Athens in week 51, with the first sailing from Liverpool by the 6,478 teu Maersk Sembawang planned for the following week.

“After careful evaluation of our network covering North Europe to/from North America, we will change our UK port call from Felixstowe to Liverpool,” said a customer advisory from Maersk.

Nevertheless, capturing new services and accepting diverted ships has put considerable pressure on the landside operation at Liverpool, leading to several anecdotal reports of lengthy delays for hauliers.

This was, no doubt, behind last week’s decision by MSC, in partnership with GB Railfreight, to launch a five-days-a-week rail service between Liverpool and the East Midlands.

The 2M said it would continue to blank its TA4/NEUATL4 transatlantic loop “until further notice”, but according to Alphaliner, the average weekly capacity on its three remaining strings has increased by 16.5%, to 19,800 teu, with the deployment of larger ships to compensate.

The news of the lost transatlantic service is a further blow to the port of Felixstowe which, among UK container hubs, has come under the most pressure from the surge in import volumes.

Inherent issues with its problematic vehicle booking system have also been a factor in landside congestion and slow ship working. Carriers have diverted a number of calls to continental ports in the past month, leaving thousands of UK imports effectively stranded due to the absence of any prompt relay options.

Meanwhile, the situation at DP World Southampton has deteriorated, with the port seeing the cancellation at the weekend of the call by the NYK Deneb on THE Alliance’s transatlantic service and, today, the omission of the CMA CGM Kerguelen.

“Congestion and delays at the port of Southampton have deteriorated recently and we are now witnessing similar issues to those at Felixstowe,” said Brentwood-based forwarder Westbound Logistics.

“In the past week, there have been weather closures due to fog, a shutdown in customs software, vessel delays and the emergence of the serious restitution issue. This has resulted in failed deliveries, further transport backlogs from the port and more price increases on urgently required deliveries,” said Westbound.

Moreover, the situation is set to get worse for UK importers as carriers consider their options for January.

The Loadstar understands that the Ocean Alliance is drawing up plans to omit the Felixstowe call throughout January, with all UK cargo to be discharged at Zeebrugge and feedered back to “other less-congested ports”.

A source at one of the alliance member lines told The Loadstar today the decision needed the final agreement of other partners, but the only real hurdle was the lack of available feeder tonnage.

Meanwhile, ocean carriers are keeping their options open on how they serve the UK, which is bad news for exporters. Indeed, several carriers have, officially and unofficially, told UK shippers they would suspend acceptance of export bookings.

The big fear for UK importers and exporters is that, even after the current pressures ease, the UK will be relegated to the status of a feeder trade.

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  • G Bryan

    December 07, 2020 at 10:25 pm

    I suspect a lack of forward planning partially by the shipping companies themselves. Had they shown more interest in the Bristol “Super port” scheme which had planning consent then it is likely that this dilemma would never have happened as there would have been sufficient capacity. I would remind some that MSC have been using Portbury for years so were well aware of the scheme and the possibilities presented by a deep water port in the Bristol area.

  • Alan Kelly

    December 08, 2020 at 5:19 am

    Looks like we are going back to the problems of yesteryear, the ports need to be working as near to a 100 percent as possible which is not the case at the moment, from my point of view as a transport driver working from Felixstowe and Immingham docks the systems seem to be set up to be as slow as possible with very little leeway for vehicles turning up early or late and being turned away and having to rebook leaving loads having to return a 2nd time and containers and trailers remaining on the docks when they should have been removed promptly which is highly frustrating for both haulage companys and drivers alike, as most times its outside the control of the haulage companys and drivers, it has been for years an attitude of if you don’t do it the way we want you don’t do it, we all need to work together to get goods in and out as fast as possible which will need a change in attitude from all concerned

  • David Meacham

    December 08, 2020 at 2:30 pm

    So why not use DLP World Essex? (London Gateway)??? It is big enough to cope!!

  • matthew griggs

    December 08, 2020 at 11:30 pm

    Port of felixstowe’s incompetence could cost alot of local drivers there jobs.
    Again the driver bearing the brunt of someone else’s cock ups

  • Alan Rouse ( former hauler )

    December 09, 2020 at 8:48 am

    Felixstowe has never considered haulers needs, they also have a bad attitude.
    Everything should be fine now they have made the stunning decision to bring Failing Grayling on board