Our recent social media comments and newsletters regarding the very real problems of port congestion and haulage knock-on effects have made National Industry news recently. Lloyds Loading List recited some of our comments here.
Whilst transit time is longer into London Gateway, at this moment in time we believe the port could very much offer a solution, but only if shipping lines were to actually commit first.
"I don't think London Gateway can fully offer the service standards it would like to, if it took on more business on an ad-hoc basis, because how can it staff a temporary increase in volume? It would need a full commitment from shipping lines ongoingly, rather than being this 'help us out' kind of go-to port".
Trucking in the UK is at an all-time disastrous level.
Truckers are booking ahead by some 2-3 weeks in advance, so we're having to strategically plan for the same. You can imagine the number of amendments required when a ships ETA changes, as a consequence of working this way.
This all came about because Felixstowe Port suffered big IT transitional problems. Vessels omitted, arrived sporadically and often hauliers couldn't get the containers collected with the booking system errors. What was thought to be a small blip, continued into a longer lasting issue. Importers made the decision to swap port of entry to Southampton, but this escalated the problem further by over loading Southampton Port with too many containers to handle. Both port and trucking wise.
Now we face a national problem, where we have more containers than trucks and drivers whereas the backlog just doesn't seem to be clearing.
Frustrated Importers are showing their feelings to Forwarders by demanding compensation for late deliveries or failed deliveries.
As you can imagine, labour doesn't come for free and when a container doesn't arrive, there is a cost. As we all know, there is no insurance or cover for this in terms and conditions, so the issue has now caused some shipping lines to refuse to offer deliveries completely!! The forwarder is in the middle of an ugly dispute.
This is a disaster of a repercussion.
Forwarders cannot do the same, as it's part of the vital service to complete delivery and what comes with this overload of containers is late runners, failed deliveries and upset clients. Truckers are trying to take on more deliveries to clear the backlog and perhaps being ambitious with timings. Only one late runner or a late unpacking will have a knock on effect. Trying to predict the end is difficult, but sadly we cannot see this clearing until either late December or worse still, Chinese New Year shut down.
Westbound Logistics are now taking a stance to offer a two-tiered delivery service, what with a clear difference in both costs and service levels.
1) Continue to use line haualge as per tariffs, which are somewhat subsidised due to lines wanting to position their empty containers in certain areas but, service is less than perfect with delays expected. We have less control on this method and cannot be held accountable.
2) Merchant Haulage - local deliveries are usually benefitting from this method anyway as we believe in service, and pay the little extra ourselves. However further afield deliveries ultimately cost more, but the service is more reliable and we do have somewhat a bit more control/relationship with the drivers' planners. Ultimately we cannot be held responsible for late/failed costs but the service expectations are more business to business rather than just a number on a day sheet.
If you woul like to discuss options further, please get in touch with your account manager @ Westbound Logistics Services.