The UK’s warehousing industry is reaching a “pinch point” for storage capacity but the emergency use of spaces such as former World War II spaces is so far helping it to cope.
A backlog of goods manufactured in China and bound for UK shops is set to reach UK shores throughout May, but many high street stores are currently closed due to the lockdown.
The UK Warehousing Association (UKWA) launched an emergency space register in response to the crisis, matching freight firms with warehouses to optimise the use of the spaces available.
It has also been looking at ‘off-dock options’, with former World War II airbase RAF Bentwaters in Suffolk set to store 20,000 shipping containers filled with unwanted goods, report Politico.
Bentwaters Parks, as it is now known, is often used as a filming location and is also home to a Cold War museum. It is being considered due its “large concrete areas”.
Port operators and depot managers have said a congestion of goods has “not so far materialised”, Lloyd’s Loading List reports.
At Felixstowe, hauliers are experiencing delays of over three hours to collect boxes, but terminals are not yet congested, with storage space still available.
Andy Tattersall, depot manager at off-quay storage space provider James Kemball, told Lloyd’s that DIY outlets had helped ease the pressure and keep cargo moving.
However, Peter Ward, CEO of the UKWA, told the Daily Update that the likelihood of reaching a “pinch point” in capacity depends on “how quickly various elements of retail and manufacturing ramp up in the restart of the economy”.
He said both cargo owners and consumers must “expect longer processing and delivery cycles” due to social distancing measures and reduced productivity levels, and that the “opening up of capacity will be a slow process”.
Cargo owners still need to find warehouse space “in the first instance and the back stop for off-dock storage of loaded containers is ready if needed,” Ward said.
Insurers have raised concerns about storing cargo in off-dock locations, saying there is an increased security risk and potential of cargo damage.
Michael Yarwood, managing director for loss prevention at transport insurance firm TT Club, told Loadstar “the security regime may not be of a similar standard” to regular warehouse storage.
He added there was also a risk of vehicles transporting cargo being diverted into the hands of criminal in “round-the-corner theft”.