Container Shipping Issues
April 2021 Update

April 2021 / Other

We want to explain the reasons for disruption in the supply chain, and to reassure you that we are doing everything we can to improve the situation.


Dear Customer,

This year has seen significant disruption to our supply chain in terms of the delivery of Far Eastern cargo into UK ports; often with delays occurring at short notice. We wanted to take the opportunity to explain the reasons for this disruption in the supply chain, and to reassure you that we are doing everything we can to improve the situation by factoring in increased lead times through higher inventory levels.


1) The Suez Canal Impact
It has been widely reported in the press and news outlets that 422 ships were recently stranded and hundreds of other ships diverted on a longer route to the UK and EU via the Cape of Good Hope, following the blockage of the Suez Canal by the Evergreen ship - Ever Given.

The Suez Canal is one of the worlds busiest trade routes and whilst the Ever Given was only grounded for 6 days, the blockage may impact global shipping for weeks to come with delays anticipated. There are many reasons for this;

• Severe port congestion – The UK/EU ports are already congested, and it is expected that dozens of delayed vessels will arrive later this week all at the same time. Next week it is expected that a further group of vessels (which travelled around Africa) will arrive in Northern Europe altogether.

• The compounded congestion will force those vessels to return late to Asia, thus impacting the rotation of future sailings which might depart in the next 4-7 weeks.

• European port congestion will prevent empty containers from reaching Asia, resulting in empty container scarcity.


2) The Rotterdam Effect
Due to the ongoing congestion at both UK’s deep seaports; many shipping lines are taking ad-hoc decisions to avoid the UK ports and offload the UK containers in Rotterdam.

This is happening without advanced notice or warning to our freight forwarders. Many UK businesses find themselves in the incredulous situation that their containers expected in Felixstowe have been offloaded in Rotterdam and then placed in a queue to be sent by feeder vessel to a UK port.


3) Slower Sailing Times
Usual shipping times are widely published; typically, the sail time from Shanghai to UK is 30 days. The standard sailing times from Far East ports have now been increased by the shipping lines and we are currently seeing increases of 10 to 17 days. These additional sailing days are as a result of; 

• Congestion at Far East ports, when ships are calling at multiple Asian ports.
• Congestion at UK/EU ports.
• Trying to avoid further bottlenecks and more congestion.
• Trying to reduce fuel consumption and costs so they are slow steaming to port.

This situation and all the factors above are frustrating; we recognise the impact that these delays will have on delivery dates for our customers and our own stockholding.

Please know that our Purchasing and Logistics teams in the UK are working diligently with our Global teams to find solutions to help mitigate delays to our customers. We apologise for any disruption you may experience in supply and will keep you updated regarding any further changes.

We appreciate the business you place with us, and we appreciate your support and bearing with us during these challenging times. If you have any questions, please refer to your Business Development Manager and/or Sales Lead. 


Yours Faithfully
Mark Simpson
Purchasing Manager