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Shoppers told to plan ahead for Christmas amid port delays Shoppers told to plan ahead for Christmas amid port delays
(31 minutes later)
The 'Moody Cow' stress ball is in short supply at the moment.
The boss of a global shipping agent has told shoppers to plan ahead for Christmas because of UK ports delays.The boss of a global shipping agent has told shoppers to plan ahead for Christmas because of UK ports delays.
Peter Wilson, from Cory Brothers, said people should order items in a "timely fashion" to ensure they arrive in time.Peter Wilson, from Cory Brothers, said people should order items in a "timely fashion" to ensure they arrive in time.
Shop shelves would stay stocked, but there may be less choice, he said.Shop shelves would stay stocked, but there may be less choice, he said.
Meanwhile, the UK's biggest commercial port Felixstowe said shipping container congestion had been easing in recent days after ships were diverted from the port because of bottlenecks.Meanwhile, the UK's biggest commercial port Felixstowe said shipping container congestion had been easing in recent days after ships were diverted from the port because of bottlenecks.
The Port of Felixstowe, which handles 36% of the UK's freight container traffic, told the BBC that it currently has 50,000 containers which are waiting to be collected, due to a shortage of HGV lorry drivers.The Port of Felixstowe, which handles 36% of the UK's freight container traffic, told the BBC that it currently has 50,000 containers which are waiting to be collected, due to a shortage of HGV lorry drivers.
"It's not the port of Felixstowe affecting the supply chain it's the supply chain affecting the port of Felixstowe," it said, adding that the problems are "similar at all major UK ports"."It's not the port of Felixstowe affecting the supply chain it's the supply chain affecting the port of Felixstowe," it said, adding that the problems are "similar at all major UK ports".
The problems come at the busiest time of the year for retailers, when most goods are imported from Asia to sell during Christmas trading. A shortage of HGV lorry drivers in the UK means that shipment containers are being offloaded but left stacked on the quayside waiting for collection. The dearth of drivers also means there is a delay in returning empty containers for re-use resulting in delays getting goods to shops.
Biggest UK commercial port hit by container logjam
Why is there an HGV driver shortage?
Temporary visa plan to ease lorry driver shortage
Driver shortage: 'I got a big pay rise overnight'
The problems come at the busiest time of the year for retailers, when most goods are imported from Asia to sell during Christmas trading. Mr Wilson urged shoppers to "be sensible, think ahead, plan appropriately" to get items such as toys in time for Christmas.
Thomas O'Brien, the managing director of Leeds-based toy designer Boxer Gifts, which manufacturers its products in China, said there's "plenty of stock" but that the real problem is that "everything takes longer and is horrendously more expensive" which means the company "will be struggling to keep price increases to anything lower than 10%".
Items that are in short supply include a sloth soft toy and the moody cow stress ball.
"Ironically the moody cow which we're short of is almost a nice acronym for how feel at the moment," he added.
While there are alternative toys, Mr O'Brien said the firm has lost six weeks of "planning time" to be able to re-stock at short notice.
He said containers shipped from Qingdao, China to Felixstowe are costing him $15,000 (£11,003) rather than the normal rate of $2,500 in 2019.
Mr Griffiths said that because the SnuggyPod is an original design, there aren't any alternatives.
Entrepreneur Jack Griffiths, co-founder of loungewear company Snuggy, said he is expecting containers on five different ships, holdings £1m worth of Christmas items, to arrive over the next week but they will now be delayed by three weeks.
"We're seasonal and we have to make the most of these months, 80% of our turnover comes from October to February."
In November, the business usually takes £500,000 worth of sales which Mr Griffiths said he "probably won't be able to get in if we don't get that stock in time".
The company has already run out of the SnuggyPod product which was due to arrive two weeks ago. Mr Griffiths said the product "probably won't arrive for three weeks at Felixstowe and then it'll take three week to get them out of the port due to the driver issues". He added that because the SnuggyPod is the firm's original design, there aren't any alternatives.
"As the weeks go by I can only see it getting worse which is just something we don't want to think about".
Mr Griffiths anticipates he will have to get products shipped by railway and air rather than sea. It comes after £400,000 worth of his stock was delayed earlier in the year when it got stuck on the Ever Given ship which blocked the Suez Canal.
Coconut milk and frozen fish
Danish shipping giant Maersk was forced to divert some of its larger ships to ports in Holland and Belgium Dutch to avoid delays. Smaller ships are then transporting the goods to the UK.Danish shipping giant Maersk was forced to divert some of its larger ships to ports in Holland and Belgium Dutch to avoid delays. Smaller ships are then transporting the goods to the UK.
Steve Parks, director at Seaport Freight which deals with food shipments from overseas as well as other goods, says this can add between two to three weeks to the transit of goods from Rotterdam to Felixstowe.Steve Parks, director at Seaport Freight which deals with food shipments from overseas as well as other goods, says this can add between two to three weeks to the transit of goods from Rotterdam to Felixstowe.
"So things like coconut milk, frozen fish and carpets are being delayed from China.""So things like coconut milk, frozen fish and carpets are being delayed from China."
A shortage of HGV lorry drivers in the UK means that shipment containers are being offloaded but left stacked on the quayside waiting for collection. The dearth of drivers also means there is a delay in returning empty containers for re-use resulting in delays getting goods to shops.
While Mr Parks said Britain's shortfall in HGV drivers is "largely" to blame for the congestion at the port, other countries are experiencing problems, including the US and China.While Mr Parks said Britain's shortfall in HGV drivers is "largely" to blame for the congestion at the port, other countries are experiencing problems, including the US and China.
"This is absolutely the worst period I have known, ever," he said. "We can't get space on ships coming out of the Far East."This is absolutely the worst period I have known, ever," he said. "We can't get space on ships coming out of the Far East.
"We're having to wait weeks for a booking on a vessel out of Shanghai and this has huge impact on clients."
A spokesman for the port of Rotterdam said it has been busy over the last couple of weeks, but said: "It's more to do with Covid than anything else because of the balance of empty and full containers being in the wrong place."A spokesman for the port of Rotterdam said it has been busy over the last couple of weeks, but said: "It's more to do with Covid than anything else because of the balance of empty and full containers being in the wrong place."
The pandemic is also being blamed in part for bottlenecks at US ports. President Joe Biden will meet with major US retailers as well as the bosses of ports on Wednesday to address the issues.The pandemic is also being blamed in part for bottlenecks at US ports. President Joe Biden will meet with major US retailers as well as the bosses of ports on Wednesday to address the issues.
The Association of British Ports, which runs 21 ports including Southampton and Hull, said it is "aware of the challenges some UK ports are facing". The UK Ports Association trade group, said most UK ports were operating normally but that the shortage of drivers meant "some delays".
However, it said that its ports are currently" running without any delays or disruption to services". "This has meant that some freight is not being collected as rapidly as it would normally. The situation is impacting all types of ports, not just container terminals.
Cory Bros's Mr Wilson said; "I can say completely, categorically that supply chain will not fail and that goods will be on the shelves through Christmas.
"There just may not be that absolute choice we're all used to," he told the BBC's Today programme.
Biggest UK commercial port hit by container logjam
Why is there an HGV driver shortage?
Temporary visa plan to ease lorry driver shortage
Driver shortage: 'I got a big pay rise overnight'
Mr Wilson added that there will be "considerable strain" on the UK's supply chain this Christmas and urged shoppers to "be sensible, think ahead, plan appropriately" to get items such as toys in time for Christmas.
'Don't panic''Don't panic'
But Tom Holder from the British Retail Consortium said that while port congestion and the driver shortages will cause "some disruption this Christmas," the impact on shoppers should be limited.
Andrew Goodacre, chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Association, said there is "no need to panic buy" but advised customers to start their normal shopping process earlier.Andrew Goodacre, chief executive of the British Independent Retailers Association, said there is "no need to panic buy" but advised customers to start their normal shopping process earlier.
"If you see something you want, now is the time to buy as retailers have most of their Christmas stock, but we can't guarantee having supplies of everything over the next few weeks"."If you see something you want, now is the time to buy as retailers have most of their Christmas stock, but we can't guarantee having supplies of everything over the next few weeks".
"It's a challenge for small retailers because they don't have the cash to stockpile," he added."It's a challenge for small retailers because they don't have the cash to stockpile," he added.
Industry bodies estimate there is a shortage of about 100,000 drivers. It has been caused by several factors, including European drivers who went home during the pandemic, Brexit and a backlog of HGV driver tests.Industry bodies estimate there is a shortage of about 100,000 drivers. It has been caused by several factors, including European drivers who went home during the pandemic, Brexit and a backlog of HGV driver tests.
The UK Ports Association trade group, said most UK ports were operating normally but that the shortage of drivers was having an impact.
"This has meant that some freight is not being collected as rapidly as it would normally. The situation is impacting all types of ports, not just container terminals.
"It has resulted in some further delays for a range of ports and terminal operations are working with their customers to get these goods out of their ports to avoid further congestion," it said.
The government recently drafted in military personnel to help with the driver shortages and deliver fuel. Emergency temporary visas have also been issued to foreign drivers.The government recently drafted in military personnel to help with the driver shortages and deliver fuel. Emergency temporary visas have also been issued to foreign drivers.
However, Prime Minister Boris Johnson recently said that just 127 HGV drivers had applied for the short-term visas.
Conservative Party chair Oliver Dowden told the BBC that the government was increasing the number of people having tests and that he would "expect that number to increase as we approach Christmas".Conservative Party chair Oliver Dowden told the BBC that the government was increasing the number of people having tests and that he would "expect that number to increase as we approach Christmas".
Asked about potential Christmas shortages, he told Sky news: "The situation is improving, I'm confident that people will be able to get their toys for Christmas. Asked about potential Christmas shortages, he told Sky news: "The situation is improving, I'm confident that people will be able to get their toys for Christmas."
"Some buy people buy very early for Christmas, my wife is quite an early Christmas buyer, others buy later. I would say just buy as you do normally."