Forwarders still face problems at Felixstowe

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Freight forwarders are still experiencing problems at Felixstowe despite claims by the port authority that a new terminal operating system is now stable, according to the British International Freight Association.

“Our members still face significant problems at the port with shipping lines cancelling calls; or operating a cut-and-run policy, where the ship leaves before all containers that are booked are loaded, or discharged, said director general Robert Keen.

In a statement earlier this week, the Port of Felixstowe, said: “Over the last few weeks the performance of our new terminal operating system has been stable, as we continue to fine tune the system to optimise its effectiveness and deliver improved performance across all areas of our operation.”

The total volume handled across the quay last week was 74,000 TEU which is consistent with the previous week.

“However, this is lower than our expectation and we are focusing our efforts on initiatives that will allow this to increase and improve.

The port plans to introduce a number of upgrades to the system in the next couple of which it believes will bring productivity up to the level before the new system was introduced.

Keen pointed out that forwarders were not only being affected directly by the problems at Felixstowe, but “those members are also experiencing knock-on effects at other UK ports where vessels are being diverted, causing additional cost and disruption”.

And he said: “Previously BIFA has expressed its disappointment that the port authority, which owns Felixstowe has made it clear that it does not consider BIFA members to be direct customers of the port, and would not be willing to have a discussion about possible compensation for the damage caused and the increased costs that have been incurred by those members.

“We have made it clear to the port authority that BIFA believes that many of its members are the port’s customer for the terminal processes that it undertakes after a vessel has been discharged for imports and prior to loading for export traffic.

“In our opinion, as the port authority produces a publicly available tariff detailing services being offered and the associated charges; and then either invoices the freight forwarder directly for these charges; or grants credit facilities, all the elements of a contract between the port authority and our members are thus in place.

“The port authority does not accept this line of argument and we remain very disappointed that it is not even prepared to discuss any kind of compensation for such a complete failure in customer service.”

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