Traffic jam in UK’s busiest port adds to Christmas delivery fears
LONDON – A standoff at the UK’s busiest commercial port on Wednesday raised concerns that the country could experience a series of shortages during the crucial Christmas trading period, especially in toys and food.
In recent weeks, concern has mounted that the UK’s economic recovery is being hampered by widespread shortages, which have been most clearly seen in the long lines seen at petrol stations in recent weeks and empty supermarket shelves.
The disruption is clearly visible in the Port of Felixstowe in eastern England, the UK’s largest commercial port. A container bottleneck at the port, which handles 36% of UK freight container volumes, has been blamed on a shortage of drivers and prompted the Maersk shipping company to hijack some of its larger vessels.
Peter Wilson, managing director of the Cory Brothers shipping agency, said the UK had a “significant nip point” around truck drivers and the demand for them to carry cargo from ports.
“This is a really big issue for us here in the UK,” he told BBC radio.
When asked if this would affect Christmas, he said he had the ‘potential’ but stressed the supply chain ‘will not fail in the UK’
However, he said some items may not be available as Christmas approaches, including toys and food.
While other countries around the world have also suffered significant delays, Britain is currently facing particularly acute problems, with the number of truck drivers falling particularly hard. The causes are widespread, but it is clear that the combination of Britain’s departure from the European Union and the pandemic has prompted many EU workers to leave the UK and return home. them.
The shortages come at a time when the economic recovery is already faltering despite the widespread lifting of restrictions on coronaviruses as supply chain issues have taken their toll.
While the Office of National Statistics said the economy had managed modest growth in August, with bars, restaurants and festivals enjoying England’s first full month without coronavirus restrictions, the 0.4% increase was slightly lower than expected. The agency also downgraded July’s figure from 0.1% growth to down 0.1% due to weaker data from a number of industries, underscoring the choppy nature of the economic recovery.
Earlier this year, the UK economy was expected to have recouped all of its COVID-19-related losses by the end of this year, but that now remains questionable following the recent slowdown and problems growing supply chain. At the end of August, the UK economy was still 0.8% below its level before the coronavirus pandemic of February 2020.
Rising inflation, low productivity levels, rising taxes and an uncertain COVID-19 backdrop as winter approaches are also expected to weigh on growth in the coming months.
The International Monetary Fund forecast on Tuesday that the UK will grow 6.8% this year, more than any other industrialized country in the Group of Seven, and a still high rate of 5% next year. However, the UK economy experienced the worst recession of any G-7 member in 2020, contracting 9.8%.