Less disruption on port strike as nearby ports take up the slack
Fears that supply chains would be hit hard by the strike at the port of Felixstowe, appear to have been unfounded as other ports took up the slack from the strike that was flagged well in advance. But problems remain for now and for the key Christmas season.
With the industrial action having just ended, there are claims the effects of the eight-day strike have been softened by other south of England ports increasing productivity.
Trade at the ports of Southampton and London Gateway soared during the strike period with latest figures showing both picked up trade diverted from Felixstowe, The Times newspaper reported.
That will be a relief to many in the retail sector that have been hit hard by patchy supply chains for several years now after the supply-disrupting pandemic was followed by the tragic Russia-Ukraine war.
The report said at the onset of the strike action, Felixstowe’s “trade appeared immediately to have shifted 70 miles down the east coast to London Gateway. Towards the end of the strike Southampton was handling 58,000 containers a day, an increase of more than 80%, with London Gateway handling 42,000 containers, more than double than earlier in the month.
Data compiled by supply chain consultant Project 44 shows that Southampton and London Gateway combined were busier earlier in the month before the strike, with the number of containers coming through their terminals up 9%. In the middle of this month Felixstowe was handling 39,000 containers a day. At the same time Southampton was handling 32,000 and London Gateway 20,000.
But while immediate fears were eased, the strike has still caused problems that could persist for months to come. Observers said containers caught up in the strikes will be slow to discharge goods and that it could have an impact on the movement of products for weeks to come and possibly through to Christmas.
And Sheila Graham, general secretary of the Unite union, also said industrial action would “escalate” unless its members’ claims were met.
Felixstowe is Britain’s largest container port, typically accounting for nearly half the country’s container movements. It’s responsible for much of the imported goods in supermarkets, as well as clothing, furniture and toys.
As one supply chain executive told the newspaper: “Most of the imported goods in Marks & Spencer or John Lewis have probably come through Felixstowe.”
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