Port of Rotterdam shipping lines ‘don’t prioritize Britain’ as UK tackles supply chain crisis
Britain may be facing an unprecedented supply chain crisis affecting fuel, food and other essentials, but across the Channel traders and shipping companies are in no rush to donate priority to the UK market.
In the Port of Rotterdam, Europe’s largest seaport, Britain is seen as just one of hundreds of markets awaiting shipments amid a global supply chain crisis that has had an impact on trade around the world.
“We see global supply chains under pressure everywhere and we are responding to them everywhere. But we are not prioritizing any single market, including Britain, ”said Concepción Boo Arias, European media manager for Danish shipping giant Maersk. The company warned that the problem is expected to persist until the New Year.
Maersk’s main terminal in the Port of Rotterdam sits at the tip of a finger of land stretching 25 miles from the city center and spanning 41 square miles.
The company is exploring ways to secure alternative routes to Britain, including sending freight to Felixstowe on supply ships rather than trying to moor larger ships in the crowded Suffolk harbor.
However, Maersk says Britain is just one market among many and some of the UK’s acute supply chain problems cannot be addressed by outside operators.
The acute supply chain problems in the UK are largely due to a shortage of truck drivers. “You still need 100,000 more truck drivers in the UK, which you don’t in the rest of Europe,” says Boo Arias.
“And that won’t be fixed overnight – truck driving does not appeal to young people and many existing drivers are retiring soon.”
Since Brexit, many truck drivers from Eastern Europe have avoided trips to Great Britain, as there is now too much hassle at the borders and it is more difficult to ‘cabotage’ – the practice of operators foreigners transporting goods between two places in the same country.
Last month, 30 Dutch road haulage companies called for cabotage rules to be changed to allow more hauliers to support the UK transport market and increase productivity per truck.
Shippers and traders attribute the tightening of the global supply chain to multiple issues, both interconnected and distinct: among them, the spending boom accompanying the recovery from the pandemic; the faster-than-expected recovery of the Chinese market; the resurgence of Covid-19 in the Chinese port of Shenzhen; and the blocking of Ever Given ships in the Suez Canal.
This is reflected in the sharp rise in shipping prices, with the cost of a 40ft container climbing 659% to over £ 10,000 in just six months for the route from Shanghai to Rotterdam.
The pressure is on the world’s major ports, with Hong Kong, Los Angeles, Singapore and Antwerp all clearing backlogs and smoothing out disruptions.
“All the major ports in the Western Hemisphere are currently experiencing very active container handling. The Port of Rotterdam is no exception, ”says Hans Nagtegaal, Director of Containers at the Rotterdam Port Authority. “We expect this situation to continue until 2022.”
The port urges shippers to ensure cargo is carried by them both ways, which is much more difficult for UK ports as they export far less cargo than they import.
“Since Covid hit the global supply chain, there has been a geographic imbalance between empty containers and fully loaded containers,” Nagtegaal said, adding that the imbalance is expected to continue next year.
Operators and traders say the UK is suffering more in its supply chains as the shortage of truck drivers means containers cannot be removed as quickly as elsewhere. Maersk is one of many shippers urging port operators to speed up their loading and unloading operations.
Marko Mihajic, media manager for Maersk in Rotterdam, notes that the EU has a network of connections to its ports, with rail and road links connecting them to major cities, and vital sharing agreements between the larger ports. , such as Rotterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg.
These have helped to ensure that EU consumers are hardly affected by the tightening of the supply chain. “Our network in the EU gives us a lot more options to deal with supply chain issues,” he says.