Shipper and haulier anger at Liverpool as UK port congestion spreads north

Port of Liverpool

By
03/03/2021

UK container ports continue to suffer congestion, with Liverpool the latest to come under fire from frustrated shippers and hauliers. Hauliers serving the Peel Ports-owned facility told The Loadstar today they had been calling for an urgent meeting with the management since January to address the chronic delays at terminals T1 and T2, where, they claim, things have reached “boiling point”. “It is a nightmare attempting to get a container from the port,” wrote one haulier, adding that it was “soul destroying” trying to get VBS appointments, as well as for his drivers suffering long delays picking up boxes.

And customers were angry at being charged rent and demurrage fees for containers that could not be collected. Another haulier said a driver had been forced to call out the port police to sign his tacho print out after a severe delay at T1, trying to pick up a box caused him to exceed his work hours – a frequent dilemma for drivers. “If he had pulled out he could have lost his job, and trying to get another VBS for the next day would have been impossible,” said the haulier.

The consensus in the complaints is that there are not enough straddle carriers at the terminals to service the vehicles, one haulier describing the situation as “the worst I can remember”. A shipper contact The Loadstar spoke to this morning, who has a sizeable number of containers moving through the port, said the delays were starting to have an impact on his business. “We are suffering some significant delays getting our boxes to the DC and, on top of that, the carriers are stinging us for rent and demurrage, just to add insult to injury,” he said, adding that he had lost a couple of hauliers recently that “were just not interested in the job any more”.

However, Peel Ports managing director David Huck promised customers that it working return the port’s productivity to normal levels this week. “Due to peak vessel demand at Terminal One, we are currently experiencing temporary extensions to haulier wait times. “These temporary delays are being carefully managed and we are working round the clock to minimise impacts, as well as to restore our usual operations as soon as possible within the next 48 hours.

Terminal Two is operating as usual, with no delays. “In response, additional resource will be in-situ from Monday next week to reduce the haulier dwell times at Terminal One. “As part of our ongoing resiliency drive across all our terminals, we are in the process of employing over 150 new recruits, who will provide additional resources aligned to our long term growth strategy for the Port of Liverpool,” he added.

Since the opening of its Liverpool2 GBP400m container terminal in 2016, which doubled its capacity, Peel Ports has attracted an impressive portfolio of new business. Moreover, during the port of Felixstowe’s well-documented VBS congestion issues last year, Liverpool gained diverted cargo and, in December, announced it had secured the 2M alliance, Maersk and MSC, TA2/NEUATL2 transatlantic loop. And welcoming a new weekly service to Liverpool by intra-European carrier Containerships last month, Peel Ports Group Mr Huck said the port aimed to increase its share of the UK container market by 15%, to 20%, by 2025.

“Future-proofing will be at the forefront of our business model, driving forward with planned investments in our people, processes and technology,” he said.

One Liverpool-based shipping contact told The Loadstar he thought the port was focusing on keeping on top of the ship work at the expense of the landside.

“The carriers kick the hardest if they don’t get their ships worked and, to a certain extent, they are not so worried about what happens once the box hits the quay – after all, they stand to gain from demurrage and detention charges,” he said.