However, Felixstowe was late last week set to again accept empties for Maersk and Evergreen, although it was unclear if that also applied to CMA CGM.
'CMA now been shut out from Felixstowe, hauliers are having real problems knowing where there is space to return empties - I have one of my hauliers charging me GBP500 (US$681) on top of my rate, so a lot of hauliers are trying to profiteer.
'I am hearing the ports are telling shipping lines, 'you're not berthing unless you commit to loading your empties back out',' one freight forwarder told UK's The Loadstar.
In response, Maersk has put an extra loader into Felixstowe to clear empties from the east coast port. The 4,500 TEU geared Maersk Cape Coast docked at Felixstowe's Trinity Terminal last week to take on Maersk empties stacked up at the port.
A photo taken last week on shipspotting.com shows the empty vessel at anchor off Felixstowe, and according to AIS data, it was scheduled to depart Felixstowe for Rotterdam this week.
A customer advisory last week from Maersk said: 'We have been working tirelessly to increase the empty uplift on vessels alongside, and to find additional berthing windows to bring in extra loaders. As a result, the gates will re-open to accept empty containers from 1600hrs on 08/10.'
It also said it had secured additional empty container storage space at the West Bank terminal, in nearby Ipswich, from haulage operator James Kemball.
However, Maersk explained that the gate closure last week at Felixstowe had now caused congestion problems at London Gateway.
'Due to the high volume of empty returns following the gate closures at Felixstowe, we have seen an extraordinary amount of empty returns into London Gateway. Already operating with a high yard density, the terminal authorities made the difficult decision to close their gates for empty returns,' it said, adding that it did not expect the gates to reopen until this week, although it had secured some additional storage space in nearby Tilbury.
A London Gateway customer advisory issued said: 'With the current high volumes (laden and empties), we are closely monitoring our stack levels to ensure port operations are not compromised.