Ports warn £1.5bn worth of goods could be hit by delays

·3-min read
Ports urge shoppers to start buying for Christmas early
A spokesperson for the UK's largest commercial port, Felixstowe, told the BBC that there are currently 50,000 containers waiting for collection. Photo: Toby Melville/Reuters

Global shipping bosses have warned that shoppers should plan ahead for Christmas amid delays at ports, with almost £1.5bn ($2bn) in goods hit by delays in the run-up to Christmas.  

Cory Bros head Peter Wilson told the BBC on Wednesday that there may be less choice on the shelves because of the global supply chain slowdown, advising people to order items in a "timely fashion". 

"I can say completely, categorically that supply chain will not fail and that goods will be on the shelves through Christmas," Wilson said on the BBC's Today programme. "There just may not be that absolute choice we're all used to."

Meanwhile, UK ports have painted a slightly brighter picture for shipping container congestion, with bottlenecks easing amid diverted ships. 

A spokesperson for the UK's largest commercial port, Felixstowe, told the BBC that there are currently 50,000 containers waiting for collection. 

"It's not the port of Felixstowe affecting the supply chain it's the supply chain affecting the port of Felixstowe," they said, adding that the problems are "similar at all major UK ports".

Research by Russell Group showed that imports of clothing would feel the greatest impact, with retailers such as Tesco (TSCO.L) and Marks & Spencer (MKS.L) among the most exposed to disruption. 

The analysis was based on 10 weeks of trade between 12 October and Christmas Day, and was modelled on 2020 figures.

The news comes amid widespread supply chain issues throughout the UK. A shortage of HGV drivers has led to items disappearing from supermarket shelves and fuel shortages across the country due to difficulty delivering. 

Earlier this year the Road Haulage Association (RHA) said there is a shortage of 100,000 HGV drivers, a problem exacerbated by Brexit as well as an ageing and retiring working population of drivers. 

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Some solutions proposed to the shortages have included training up people recently released from prison to drive trucks. Others have recommended bringing longer and larger trucks to the roads so more goods can be transported at once. 

One issue facing the shipping and haulage industry in future months is the spectre of inflation. Recently released OECD figures showed that shipping costs had increased nearly fivefold since the beginning of the pandemic.

Recent data from the OECD's recovery racker showed input prices were pushing up inflation, particularly in shipping. Chart: OECD
Recent data from the OECD's recovery racker showed input prices were pushing up inflation, particularly in shipping. Chart: OECD

The OECD said: "A rapid increase in demand as economies reopen has pushed up prices in key commodities such as oil and metals. 

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"Food prices are also rising, boosting prices especially in emerging markets. Tensions along supply chains caused by the pandemic have added to cost pressures. At the same time, shipping costs have increased sharply."

Watch: What is inflation and why is it important?

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