Felixstowe strike to start on Sunday 21st August

Unite Union negotiators have walked away from ‘last-ditch’ talks with Felixstowe Port, after rejecting a 7% wage increase and £500 lump sum as an effective pay cut, confirming its intention to call its 1,900 members out from Sunday until 28 August.

The inland movement of containers is also subject to disruption, with national rail strike action yesterday and Saturday, as the RMT and TSSA rail unions withdraw labour, directly impacting freight services. Consulting closely with rail service operators, we understand that they expected 30% of freight services to run yesterday, 70% today and 50% on Saturday.

Cosco has already announced that it will omit its CSCL Brisbane and YM Evolution services into Felixstowe next week and said that containers on the quay during the strike would continue to accrue detention and demurrage charges after their free period, in a move that other carriers are likely to follow.

London Gateway and Southampton are relatively congestion-free and it would be the perfect solution to use these gateways for vessels to call and unload cargo, but with Felixstowe, processing up to 40,000 containers each week, volumes and vessel rotation would need to be carefully managed.

It is unfortunate that the carriers and Felixstowe failed to act earlier, on such a solution, as alternative gateways are clearly not now viable, which is why Cosco is omitting services to the UK and not redirecting them. It is likely we will see many more vessels omitting Felixstowe and the fallout could take weeks to resolve.

We are trying to find out what contingency plans other carriers will put in place as, in addition to omissions, it is likely that UK cargo could be offloaded earlier at hubs like Antwerp or Rotterdam. Though with many North European ports already dealing with their own industrial disputes, as well as severe congestion, lines may prefer to use ports further upstream, to be collected by the following week’s vessel.

Felixstowe port is removing the option to book vehicle booking slots (VBS) more than 24 hours in advance, which is usually available to large users of the port, and will instead release VBS slots each day, subject to the level of workforce present, which means there will be limited slots for collections and deliveries, which will result in disruption and potentially costs.

Our sea freight teams continue to work flat-out to clear as many containers as possible from the port before Sunday, delivering and moving containers to off-dock holding areas.

As we learn what omissions and discharge points the shipping lines are planning, we will review modal and service options and plan relevant recovery options for the UK and continent.

Dockworkers at the Port of Liverpool have also voted to strike over wage negotiations and while no dates have yet been announced, it will not be before the 3rd week in September.

We are implementing contingency plans to deal with disruption to operations and, when appropriate, will move cargo to alternative ports, to avoid delays and congestion.

We are monitoring the situation closely and will report on developments as they happen, so that you can make informed decisions and avoid possible issues, before they become problems.