Pre-Brexit stockpiling and Covid pandemic could cause Christmas present chaos

Evergreen Ever Govern, one of the world’s largest container ships, arriving at Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk

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Shoppers have been warned that pre-Brexit stockpiling and the coronavirus pandemic could cause shortages in festive stock.

A backlog of shipping containers has been seen at Felixstowe Port – UK's busiest container port – in Suffolk over the past few weeks.

Among these, there are 11,000 containers of personal protective equipment ordered by the government which are slowing down operations at the port, sources claim.

It is believed the containers are filling 30 per cent of the container space at the port.

Foreign container ships docked at the port
(Image: Tim Graham)

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One ship which was due to be unloaded at Felixstowe Port was redirected to Rotterdam because of current delays, BBC News reports.

Hutchinson Port Holdings, which owns the port, blames pre-Brexit stockpiling and the Covid pandemic for the delays.

Freight manager Matt Hudson told the BBC that containers were being left on the quayside because haulage companies could not book a slot to enter the site.

He also warned that increased shipping prices could be passed on to consumers "if the chaos continues".

Officials at Felixstowe said the delays are caused by Brexit and the coronavirus pandemic
(Image: PA)

Mr Hudson said the chaos is delaying freight going into shops, which are already suffering the consequences of the pandemic.

He said: "If retail outlets can't sell what is actually en-route at the moment in time for Christmas, potentially they could lose even more money than they have done already this year."

The volume of containers at the port is also thought to be greater than usual because the flow of goods into the UK was heavily disrupted during the first lockdown in spring, according to The Guardian.

The delays could also mean increased shipping prices for consumers

A spokesman for Felixstowe told the newspaper that some of the PPE containers have been at the port since August, "which does create additional pressure on top of a more general spike in volumes being experienced worldwide".

He added the port is working with the Health Department to get the containers moved.

In addition to the pandemic, it is believed similar delays could continue to be seen when the UK officially leaves the European Union on January 1, 2021.

Preparations for checks on goods entering and leaving the UK from Kent are likely to cause chaos at the end of the Brexit transition period.

John Roberts, the chief executive of online electrical goods retailer AO.com, described the situation at Felixstowe as "a mess".

He added: "There was there was a period of about six weeks where incoming stock to the UK dropped off significantly.

"Now we have turned the tap back on the capacity in China and the capacity in the UK ports is overloaded.

"Of course the little thing that’s also adding to the complexity is called Brexit."

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