As many people are now aware, the global shipping industry has been in crisis since the early stages of the pandemic. A recent report from our trade body the British Association of Removers showed that demand for containerised shipping to and from the UK is currently double the availability. That means for every available container, there are two customers waiting to fill it. This has allowed the shipping lines to rapidly increase their prices, and it is also placing a huge amount of pressure on all the infrastructure needed to load and unload containers, get them through customs, and take them to and from the ports.
This has led to a great deal of congestion at many ports in the UK and around the world. Local lockdowns and self-isolation measures to combat Covid outbreaks are further complicating this picture, and together with the port congestion, these factors are causing long delays and in some circumstances forcing ships to skip certain ports.
In the UK, as in several other countries including the USA, we are also struggling with a chronic driver shortage. For example, within the UK the latest figures estimate that we currently need an additional 100,000 fully qualified HGV drivers. This has been a growing problem for years and can be attributed to several factors including an aging workforce in the profession, a loss of foreign drivers after Brexit, and significant numbers leaving the transport industry due to the pandemic.
The driver shortage is having a profound effect on the shipment of household goods to and from the UK. This is because we are required to book hauliers to deliver and collect containers to and from the ports, and their drivers are in such high demand (and often prioritise other types of work such as commercial deliveries) that we are having to accept long waits to secure services, and then are commonly suffering short notice cancellations. Often, these cancellations are communicated to us at the very last minute.
For customers importing goods into the UK, these long waits and cancellations can mean that their containers are stuck at the port beyond the free period allowed by the port authorities, and then begin to accumulate charges for storage. Unfortunately these charges are completely outside of our control, and we have no option but to pass them on to customers. All international shipping companies are currently experiencing the same problems – this isn’t specific to Britannia Movers. This situation is covered in our standard terms and conditions of service, but we have only had to rely on these on very rare occasions in the past. The last few months have been truly unprecedented in our industry.
For customers wanting to export goods from the UK to another country, it is taking much longer than usual to book space on ships and then get containers delivered for loading. Some flexibility may be necessary to accommodate last minute changes due to haulier or container availability or shipping schedule changes, which are currently common
Please be assured that our expert teams do understand how stressful international moving is, especially at the moment, and are going above and beyond to try to reunite our clients with their belongings as quickly as possible. It is enormously frustrating and upsetting for us that our customers are becoming liable to charges that we cannot prevent or control, and we are working with our trade bodies to ensure that government is fully aware of the impact of this situation.