Southampton port congestion eases

Date Added: 12 October 2018

Davies Turner is pleased to report that the congestion that has hampered container handling activity at the Port of Southampton in recent weeks has eased considerably, with the UK’s second-busiest container port reporting “normal” truck turnaround times and service levels overall returning to normal – but with some continuing issues due to high stack levels.

At the end of last month, the port’s container terminal operator DP World said DP World Southampton (DPWS), was confronted with “very high stack levels” that were impacting productivity. It attributed the situation to a combination of factors, including an unusually large number of empty containers that, coupled with the normal pre-season peak volumes, had put additional pressure on its yard. This had led to boxes being stacked more densely, limiting manoeuvrability, which in turn had resulted in it taking longer to pick and load them.

Another factor contributing to the congestion was the “national problem with the UK haulage industry” and a significant lack of available drivers.

But DP World this week told Lloyd’s Loading List: “DP World Southampton is seeing service levels return to normal after experiencing very high stack levels early last week. There is no congestion and truck turnaround times are normal. The port continues to work with its customers to ensure the stack remains at manageable levels and to ensure we maintain landside performance levels.”

It added: “We still have a very high number of empty containers in our yard and the dwell time is higher than average. This means that, while our operational performance has improved, our stack levels still remain high. We are continuously monitoring and managing the stack levels to ensure that we can maintain our service and productivity.

The company stressed that it was working with its shipping line customers “to ensure empty containers are shipped out in good time”, adding: “Our landside weekend opening hours remain extended until further notice. We are waiving our Saturday charge and opening all day on Sunday at no extra charge.”
It said customers could see how the terminal is performing by visiting the DPWS website.
UK ocean freight has faced significant challenges since June because of operational problems at the Port of Felixstowe following the installation of a new IT system. The problems have continued for several months, causing knock-on effects across the UK ocean freight sector, in some ways solved by and in other ways exacerbated to some extent by the decision of a number of container lines to switch services to other ports, including DP World’s Southampton and London Gateway Terminals.

In an update to Lloyd’s Loading List, DP World noted: “Over the last couple of months and through its two-port strategy in the UK (at London Gateway and Southampton), DP World has continually worked with shipping lines and logistics providers on solutions to challenges. It has been offering ad-hoc opportunities to assist customers experiencing delays at other ports”.

It noted that two MSC services “have now switched and are permanently calling at DP World London Gateway and, where possible, we have and will handle other ad-hoc requests to support UK trade, but we will ensure we do not compromise existing customers’ operations”.

DP World went on to note that the MOL Truth, part of THE Alliance’s FE2 service, made a one-off call at DP World London Gateway last week to discharge imports and where its local teams have been working with the shipping alliance and with hauliers “to ensure that the landside operations support the efficient flow of containers”. This vessel also called at DP World Southampton to collect export containers.

The port operator concluded: “DP World will continue to put customers and port users at the heart of its operations, so that those operating UK supply chains have greater choice, certainty and reliability when it comes to passing containers through critical UK port infrastructure.”

Source: Lloyds Loading List

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