The UK’s biggest container port at Felixstowe (POF) is buckling under the strain of a “sharp spike in import volumes”, triggering hauliers and forwarders to criticise the management’s “contemptuous attitude” towards them.

“It is a complete s**t show and, if we as hauliers treated our customers with the same distain as the POF treats hauliers, we would be out of business by the end of the month,” said haulier David Perfect.

Hauliers like Thurrock-based D Perfect & Sons have reported increasing difficulty in securing bookings on the ports vehicle booking system (VBS) over the past month, with one forwarder sending The Loadstar a screenshot of the sparse availability at Trinity terminal yesterday.

“The ‘UK’s premier port’ is a sign that should be taken down immediately,” said one.

“The shambles that is Felixstowe port is costing everyone time and money. Forwarders, warehouse operators, hauliers and, ultimately, the importers and exporters – but probably not themselves.”

The disastrous migration in June 2018 to a new in-house terminal operating system appears to be at the root of the current VBS problems, as the system is “still not functioning to full strength”, according to an insider.

Mr Perfect told The Loadstar he struggled to find the words to describe the port’s attitude towards his sector.

“The VBS help desk does the opposite job to what it should do. We’re turning away at least 10 jobs a day at Felixstowe. A few years back, 90% of our business was at Felixstowe, nowadays it is just 10%,” he said.

“The Felixstowe Port Users Association has absolutely no leverage with the port, it is just paying lip service, and the lines themselves don’t want to know, they just want their boats emptied,” he added.

“Everywhere is busy at the moment, due to peak season, but at least at Gateway and Southampton they will talk to you.”

And the situation is likely to get much worse in the coming weeks as congestion on the Felixstowe quay forces carriers to “cut and run”, leaving some imports to be discharged at Rotterdam for eventual relay back to the UK, and exports left stranded on the quay.

Felixstowe told forwarders that from yesterday to 7pm on Tuesday, it will not accept export empty containers at the port via rail. Rail providers can only take full containers on the train services from the port; empties must be left inland or diverted to other ports.

Rail is said to account for 35% of the port’s throughput, 30% are empties.

One forwarder, who blamed the problems on high volumes and shortage of labour, noted that the plan would cause major disruption and additional costs.

Two Felixstowe-calling carriers told The Loadstar this morning they had already stopped receiving empties at the terminal and were diverting some exports to London Gateway and Southampton.

“We may well have to skip the Felixstowe call with one or more of our strings in the coming weeks,” one warned, while the other  said the situation at Felixstowe was “currently under review”.

One NVOCC contact told The Loadstar this morning he had been told by a carrier that, after devanning in Essex, he must return his empty containers to Liverpool instead of Felixstowe.

Although there has been no official response or acknowledgement from the port to the widespread complaints, The Loadstar understands from a source that the difficulties “have been caused by a sharp spike in import volumes”, which the port has attempted to mitigate by “releasing additional bookings to help meet demand”.

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  • Simon Doyle

    September 17, 2020 at 2:48 pm

    The Port of Felxistowe just goes from one problem to another

  • Simon Doyle

    September 17, 2020 at 2:48 pm

    What a mess of a Port

  • Carl Lankester

    September 17, 2020 at 4:22 pm

    Unfortunately the failures of the port have now reached new heights. The implementation of the N Gen system despite warnings against it has now led us to the point we are at and the port still refuses to offer any plausible reasoning.

  • Paul White

    September 17, 2020 at 5:23 pm

    Whenever I get a port pick up ordrop off I know ill be on there for at least 3 hours, thats 3 hours my boss is paying me to do nothing.
    I used to have my own business years ago (not in haulage) and I couldn’t afford to have vehicles sitting not making money for 3 hours and on top pay the driver for that time (not regularly anyway)
    It seems the lazier you are the more chance of a job at felixstowe.
    Its a total disaster and disgrace.

  • Peter marjoram

    September 17, 2020 at 7:48 pm

    Great story on Felixstowe crap service
    I personally protested at gate 2 over a month ago
    My sign was vbs is crap
    I am fighting the Port alone
    I am in hospital tomorrow but hopefully
    I will be at gate 2 to protest again next week
    10000 pounds was offered to dockers to quit
    Their jobs. A lot took the offer hence no staff
    Left to operate the port only highly paid managers to control a crap port
    They also had the cheek to increase the security charge by 10 per cent
    From 10.50 to 11.50
    Which calculated gives them an extra profit
    If 4 m a year
    Fpua not willing to talk to port about it
    Why should we have to pay 15 pounds for a possible booking to get a container out
    We already pay terminal costs to the lines
    Lines should divert to other ports
    To give the Chinese owners something to think about
    They need to listen

  • Jack Harvey

    September 17, 2020 at 10:58 pm

    Disappointing but true! We previously had a great work ethic at the port but now they just don’t care! Poor performance pays!

    Time they shook things up and started making some big decisions.

  • Chezzar

    September 17, 2020 at 11:05 pm

    I think you all should stop moaning the way the world is and all you can fo is moan about waiting for a box … every year the port gets busy and hauliers need to wait longer than they did the day before but please go easy on the port workers …they are the ones that went to work and lefted their loved ones risking thereselves and their families during covid 19 when did someone clap for them or write about them still going to work so we could all wipe our arses and doctors could save lifes with the meds etc coming into our country via the Port of Felixstowe.. no ones writes about that maybe Mike Wackett should … maybe ask the port workers and their families what it was like as i think it would be worst than waiting on a container also I would like to take the time to say thank you to all the Port Workers you have saved many lifes without even knowing …well done .

    • Mike Wackett

      September 18, 2020 at 11:18 am

      Hi, I will be the first to applaud the sterling work of the dockers and port workers during the pandemic. They do not have the option like some of us of working from home and have been essential in keeping the country going. However, they must feel equally frustrated that, not for the first time, despite their efforts the port is grinding to a halt while others are managing to cope with the peak season volumes.

    • Jo. Lives Local to felixstowe.

      September 18, 2020 at 11:53 am

      Well said Chezzar. l’m a bit concerned as to what happens to empty ccontainers.Where r they going? They can ‘t always be refilled at the other end can they? Also they heen very busy cleaning the railway line. And just one other thing when port trains leave they seem horribly close together at times. Does it give enough time for our local signals to change? A lorry did go into one at Manningtree. I would not be surprised if there are more railway accidents with the problem with our rollers before much longer. Very concerned local.

    • Peter marjoram

      September 18, 2020 at 12:50 pm

      I disagree with your comments
      The port have furloughed people and paid 10000 to some to quit
      the hauliers have had a terrible service since March
      Hauliers will go out of business if they
      Cannot do a reasonable job of being on time etc
      Importers are fed up of receiving late deliveries
      You need staff at the port to operate
      Common sense tells you that

  • David

    September 20, 2020 at 9:07 pm

    Felixstowe is a joke, been lazy for years Gateway all the way alwsys had decent service even when things have gone belly up

  • I Q Optical , David Oldacre...

    October 07, 2020 at 4:12 pm

    I am only a small company importing optical lenses, my shipment has been in Felixstowe since 24th September. I am now worried that if this delay continues I could lose customers and have to close, peoples jobs are at major risk. We have all attempted to trade during the covid outbreak and lockdown only to be let down by a company that can not move BOXES AND PALLETS, a disgrace, really looking forward to when we leave the EU.