Delays at Felixstowe

Date Added: 13 August 2018

Davies Turner reports that all Freight forwarders and their customers are continuing to face significant problems at the Port of Felixstowe, two months on from the UK’s busiest container port introducing a new terminal operating system (TOS), forwarding representatives say

Responding to a statement by the owners of the Port of Felixstowe, Hutchison Ports, that its recently introduced new terminal operating system was now ‘stable’, Robert Keen, director general of the British International Freight Association (BIFA) said: “Our members still face significant problems at the port, with shipping lines cancelling calls, or operating a cut-and-run policy, where the ship leaves before all containers that are booked are loaded, or discharged.

“Those members are also experiencing knock-on effects at other UK ports where vessels are being diverted, causing additional cost and disruption.”

Keen repeated BIFA’s previously expressed disappointment that the port authority “does not consider BIFA members to be direct customers of the port and would not be willing to have a discussion about possible compensation for the damage caused and the increased costs that have been incurred by those members”.

He noted: “We have made it clear to the port authority that BIFA believes that many of its members are the port’s customer for the terminal processes that it undertakes after a vessel has been discharged for imports and prior to loading for export traffic. In our opinion, as the port authority produces a publicly available tariff detailing services being offered and the associated charges; and then either invoices the freight forwarder directly for these charges; or grants credit facilities, all the elements of a contract between the port authority and our members are thus in place.

“The port authority does not accept this line of argument and we remain very disappointed that it is not even prepared to discuss any kind of compensation for such a complete failure in customer service.”
In a customer update on 7 August, Port of Felixstowe operator Hutchison Ports acknowledged that there were still problems with the port’s performance, claiming that measures due to be taken in the coming weeks would return performance levels to pre-June levels.
“Over the last few weeks, the performance of our new terminal operating system has been stable, as we continue to fine-tune the system to optimise its effectiveness and deliver improved performance across all areas of our operation,” the port said. 

“The total volume handled across the quay last week was 74,000 TEU, which is consistent with the previous week. However, this is lower than our expectation and we are focusing our efforts on initiatives that will allow this to increase and improve.”

On the intermodal side, the port said it had handled 11,700 rail containers last week, with a further 4% increase in the number of import containers loaded to outbound trains than the previous week. “Rail misses are declining,” it noted. 

On improvements to overall performance and the new TOS system, Felixstowe said: “We have already introduced a number of system upgrades which stabilise and improve our productivity in the last few weeks. However, there are a number of focused upgrades to be delivered in the coming two weeks which will further enhance and improve productivity of the yard, thereby improving the loading of containers and continue to improve overall productivity across our shipside and landside operations. 
“We expect these important upgrades to bring our productivity to levels before the implementation of the new system.”  

The port apologised to its customers for any delays or inconvenience suffered, noting: “We are aware that temporary vessel diversions to other ports are causing issues and we are in discussion with shipping line customers for the return of services to Felixstowe as soon as possible. At the same time we are maintaining our focus on productivity improvements to ensure that all customers receive the level of service they deserve.”

Courtesy Lloyds Loading List.

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