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CMA CGM imposes US$150/TEU congestion charge on Felixstowe

FRENCH shipping giant CMA CGM is to levy a US$150 per TEU port congestion surcharge from October 1 on all Asian containers imported or exported through Felixstowe

24 September 2020 - 19:00

FRENCH shipping giant CMA CGM is to levy a US$150 per TEU port congestion surcharge from October 1 on all Asian containers imported or exported through Felixstowe.

The surcharge is being imposed as the United Kingdom's busiest port struggles with poor productivity and peak season volume. The surcharge will apply to CMA CGM's Asia-Europe FAL1 service 'until further notice,' the carrier said in an advisory to customers, IHS Media reported.



The shipping line noted that: 'Due to a combination of factors, including significant increase in import container arrivals, reduced terminal productivity due to Covid-19 safe working practices and the deep cleaning required at each shift changeover, and reduced driver availability in the container sector, the operational costs have significantly increased in Felixstowe terminal over the past weeks.'



The Hutchison Ports-run Felixstowe said last week in a statement that import volume over the past two weeks has been more than 30 per cent above average levels. This surge was driving up demand for rail and road capacity, with a high proportion of late vessels, greater numbers of empty containers, and the ongoing impact of coronavirus on staffing availability exacerbating the issue, the port noted.



To help mitigate the congestion, Felixstowe said last week it would no longer accept empty containers at the port, leading to a Maersk Line customer advisory that the carrier would allow 'inland restitution of empty containers without penalty'. The move sparked a furious reaction from forwarders, and according to a advisory from Maersk, the port is again accepting empties.



Robert Keen, director general of the British International Freight Association (BIFA), said haulage costs have been increasing because of the issues at the port, adding that these costs are difficult for forwarders to pass on to customers.



Tony Cole, supply chain manager for UK-based forwarder Davies Turner, said the peak season was larger than usual, thanks to months of pent-up demand following the reopening of the UK after the Covid-19 lockdown in the second quarter. But he also pointed to ongoing problems with Felixstowe's vehicle booking system (VBS) that truckers must use to drop off or pick up containers.



'We are trying to mitigate the port delays, but the VBS issues are having a significant impact on container deliveries at Felixstowe,' Mr Cole said. 'If we plan a delivery with a shipping line it is on the basis of us getting a VBS slot, and at the moment we need to book 7 to 10 days in advance. But the failure rate of the system has never been as bad as it is right now.'


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