Felixstowe sees the most cancellations of ship calls among Europe's top ports in recent months

Fri 10 Dec 2021
Posted by: Noelle McElhatton
Trade News

Felixstowe, the UK’s largest container port, has had most vessel dockings or ‘calls’ of ships from Asia cancelled of any European port in the past six months.

Figures from market analytics Alphaliner, reported in Lloyd’s Loading List, compared actual ship calls with pro forma schedules for the period from July to December this year, showing that almost one third of Felixstowe’s calls were omitted.

In October Maersk, the world’s largest container shipping company, announced it was diverting vessels away from the UK, including Felixstowe, due to small unloading capacity. 

Felixstowe partnered with Harwich is one of the UK’s eight new freeports announced in the March 2021 Budget.

Avoiding congestion

The dropped calls are caused by carriers seeking to avoid those terminals affected by congestion.

“Our survey clearly shows that Felixstowe was worst hit by the temporary schedule changes and ad hoc adjustments,” Alphaliner said.

Europe’s top three ports – Rotterdam, Antwerp and Hamburg – also saw a reduction of between 20.2% to 30.3% of planned calls.

Southampton saw its 66 pro forma calls fall to 50, while London Gateway’s calls fell 27%, to 32.

Smaller ports have fared much better, Alphaliner reported.

Three Alliances

The 18 Asia–North Europe shipping loops operated by the so-called Three Alliances skipped a total of 383 port calls in northern Europe over the past five months due to severe port congestion, it added.

The Three Alliances – Transport High Efficiency Alliance or THE Alliance, the Ocean Alliance and the 2M Alliance – are made up of ocean freight carriers pooling their fleets to extend their geographical reach, between them controlling more than three quarters of global container capacity.

The Alphaliner figures represents nearly a quarter of all scheduled calls in the period.

Space race

Meanwhile securing space on those container ships is viewed as the biggest challenge for the logistics sector going into 2022, according to an industry survey.

Loadstar reports a poll of 800 logistics companies by online equipment trading platform Container xChange revealing that for half (53%) of respondents, finding slots on vessels is by far the biggest concern for businesses.

The space concern is followed by carrier surcharges, at 22%, and labour shortages at 19%.

Container xChange said the industry was “downbeat” on the expected performance of the supply chain next year, with 54% of respondents expecting it to remain as bad, and 11% suggesting it will deteriorate further.