Brits face Christmas toy crisis as shipping containers carrying goods diverted from country’s biggest port

BRITS face Christmas toy crisis as shipping containers carrying goods are diverted from the country’s biggest port.

Shipping companies are directing vessels away from Felixstowe after it ran out of storage space.

The port, on the Suffolk coast, normally handles almost 40 per cent of Britain’s container imports and exports – including a lot of toys.

But containers are now sitting for almost ten days before being collected for onward transport — double the time it normally takes, according to the British International Freight Association.

The problem has been caused by a shortage of lorry drivers to move the containers, restrictions at ports because of Covid, and a surge in imports.

Hauliers believe collections in September were down 15 to 20 per cent, leaving up to 7,500 containers stacked at the UK’s busiest port.

One shipping boss told The Times: “I don’t want to sound like a Grinch but there are going to be gaps on shelves this Christmas.”

Most imported toys come through Felixstowe because they are non-perishable and it's cheaper to ship them than fly them on a plane.

Electronics, bikes and homeware goods are also reportedly affected, raising fears that Christmas presents will be in short supply.

Lars Mikael Jensen, boss of shipping giant Maersk, warned retailers they may need to prioritise what they ship to Britain in coming months due to the delays.

He said: “Felixstowe is among the top two or three worst-hit terminals [globally].

“We are having to deviate some of the bigger ships away from Felixstowe and relay some of the smaller ships for the cargo.”

The containers are being unloaded in other ports, including Rotterdam, Antwerp and Bremerhaven, and transferred to smaller ships for transport to Britain.

Mike Bowden, procurement manager at the global shipping group Cory Brothers, said it had been warning about the issue since June last year.

He said: “We have a perfect storm of problems, which has meant the port is so full of containers they cannot get them off [ships] and there is no space for the empty containers to be returned.

“As an industry we are used to making things work and we need the government to sit down and listen to what is happening. I have never seen a situation like this.”

Increased demand has led to the cost of shipping a container from China to Continued on page Europe increasing more than six times over the past year.

Shortages of HGV drivers in Britain have also led to higher costs for moving goods from ports.

Government sources said that they were monitoring the situation at Felixstowe closely but insisted Britain still had port capacity to dock container ships, according to The Times.

They said the problem had been exacerbated, however, by delays in hauliers arriving to take shipments to their final destinations.

The Department for Transport insisted the problem was not “unique to the UK”.

A spokesman added: “Ports around the globe are experiencing similar container capacity and supply chain issues.”

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