“When the Secretary of State for Health says the new mutant COVID virus is out of control, neighbouring countries panic and shut their borders.
But far from being panicked by border closures, threats of food shortages, vaccine supplies getting stuck in the supply chain, or the sight of 20 miles of stationary trucks lining the M20 on the way to the port of Dover, the public has grown blasé and weary of crises.
More serious for construction though, reports of congestion in Felixstowe and Southampton ports in the last few weeks have spilled into the headlines and onto the main news channels. But it’s not a local British difficulty, it’s a global problem that’s getting rapidly worse.
It’s been described as a perfect storm, with a number of causes including a shortage of containers because of unprecedented demand, ships mothballed with their containers and crew, and carriers reluctant to take bookings for the UK because of the congestion at UK ports.
Container ships are waiting at sea or sailing to the next port and calling in on their way back. Some forwarders, anticipating post-Brexit chaos, refused to ship to the UK at all.
So, shipping costs are rising rapidly to eye-watering levels. In the words of one shipper: ‘shipping costs have gone mad.’ In August the container freight rate (for a 40’ High Cube) was $1,675.
By 1st November this had risen 72% to $2,875. As of December 1st it was $7,000. In the period December 15th – 31st rates rose to $9,750, and by 1st January 2021 they had increased to $13,600.
That’s an alarming rise of 548% and around seven times what they were in January 2020. Shipping experts forecast rates of $14,500 or more in February, which can be seen in the above chart.
Steeply rising costs are being reflected in surcharges, and if you haven’t already had them, you will be. Everyone is being hit. But surcharges are temporary and will be rescinded when the crisis is over.
So I urge stockists to stay with their supply partners to ensure continuity of supply and not switch, hoping to avoid temporary surcharges.”
Tel: 01684 853 870
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