According to The Loadstar, Hauliers and logistics operators are warning UK shippers and consignees using the country’s second busiest container gateway, Southampton, of higher land side rates, as costs rise as a result of growing box congestion.
The congestion has been a longer term effect of the new alliance structure, which came into effect in April 2017. It was meant to provide a more even split of UK ports. At the time it was argued that port of Southampton would see an increase of 9% of vessels, a 17% increase in average vessel size and ten inbound calls, closely followed by Felixstowe with nine inbound calls.
DP World, a global global ports and logistics company operating Southampton, is the only port to handle vessels operated by ‘The Alliance’, ‘Ocean Alliance’ and ‘2M’ alliance – the three major container shipping line consortia.
DP World Southampton is linked to an unrivalled global shipping network, providing competitive shipping options to all corners of the globe. The unmatched geographical location, excellent road and rail connectivity of both terminals – plus their outstanding productivity levels and resilience to bad weather – help make the UK more competitive for importers and exporters.
However, one haulier told The Loadstar: “The problems began with the move of The Alliance services from Felixstowe to Southampton last April, which meant a lot of hauliers moving with their customers.
“With the increased volumes there is greater demand for haulage transport yards in and around Southampton and, since then, every haulier has been jostling to get facilities in the right place. The trouble is that these simply don’t exist, there is simply nothing available.
“You have to go a lot further than the 10-mile radius of a port that makes economic sense for a haulier and, as a result, round-trips between port and transport yard have greatly increased,”
This has been compounded by two further issues: the introduction of larger vessels, resulting in more container exchanges per vessel call; and the ongoing squeeze on driver availability. This has led to a battle to obtain drivers, with agencies said to be targeting their recruitment efforts on luring drivers from haulage firms with the promise of higher wages.
Port executives have however defended their record in handling containers with a spokesperson for DP World Southampton claiming that its operations serving hauliers had improved over the last 12 months.
“Southampton’s landside truck turnaround times actually decreased from average 36 minutes during 2016 to just below 33 minutes during 2017, an improvement of 7%.
“This is for the total time a truck is in the terminal, from arriving at the gate for dropping off an export container to picking up an import container and leaving from the gate.
“So, allegations from hauliers that there is structural congestion at Southampton are factually incorrect,” the spokesperson said – although acknowledging the disruptive effect the change in alliance schedules had on haulage operations in the UK.
“The large national haulage operators have a long presence at Southampton as well as the locally established hauliers. The choice of THE Alliance to call at DP World London Gateway and DP World Southampton meant some hauliers that previously worked out of Felixstowe have picked up new business at Southampton and London Gateway and are now looking for facilities.”
The terminal also disputed claims that the number of boxes at the port had increased significantly, and pointed to a 2016 terminal expansion project as evidence that it had sought to alleviate possible congestion.
It has previously been estimated that at any one time, there are around 15,000 containers in Southampton’s container yard, compared with around 6,500 before The Alliance services began calling there. The issue is not so much the new services, but the size of vessels deployed in the strings, which has led to more extreme peaks and troughs of container volumes.
It’s easy to see the trend in the growth of ships, but what cannot be forgotten is the role of ports. Amidst the fanfare that greets the arrival of colossal ships, there’s a feeling that ports are struggling to keep pace.
“When these ships come in to port, they need larger container gantry cranes, a larger storage yard, and better inland distribution,” says Richard Clayton, chief correspondent at IHS Maritime and Trade. . That of course costs money, not to mention the necessary space to expand, which is not always a given in densely populated cities.
•Sources: The Loadstar / Multimodal / APB / ship-technology