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the uk's largest commercial port says the supply chain crisis has caused a logjam of shipping containers.

The Port of Felixstowe, which handles 36 % of the UK's freight container traffic, blamed the busy pre-Christmas period and haulage shortages.

However, it said the situation has been improving over the last few days.

The Financial Times first reported on Tuesday that Maersk was re-routing ships away from Felixstowe to other European ports, where smaller vessels will be used for UK deliveries.

"Felixstowe has come back up as one of our challenges," said Lars Mikael Jensen, head of east-west network at Maersk.

"We 've taken those measures because we saw, because of the big ships, there is a limit to how many berths they can call in Felixstowe, and because its slower, it took longer to handle every ship," he said.

"Instead of wasting time waiting, we progressed to the next stop, and arranged that the boxes are relayed from that port rather than wait for a week and then discharge."

Maersk ship (Image: Getty)

However, shipping firms say delays at Felixstowe have increased again recently, and the current problems come at the beginning of the busiest period of the year as retailers import higher quantities of goods from China and the far east to sell during the Christmas trading season.

A spokesman for the port said : "The pre-Christmas peak, combined with haulage shortages, congested inland terminals, poor vessel schedule reliability and the pandemic, has resulted in a build-up of containers at the port.

empty container levels remain high as import containers are returned and we are asking shipping lines to remove them as quickly as possible."

The vast majority of import containers are cleared for collection within minutes of arriving and there are over 1,000 unused haulier bookings most days."

This map from the Department of Transport shows ports split by cargo group. Ro-Ro stands for Roll-on/Roll-off, as in lorries; while Lo-Lo stands for Lift-on/Lift-off, as in containers

Felixstowe said the situation was improving and it had more space for import containers than it had had at any time since the start of July.

The government recently drafted in military personnel to help deliver fuel and to issue emergency temporary visa to foreign drivers.

"Ports have taken significant action to respond to the challenges and build resilience."

"there is a shortage of truckers in the uk.

Spiking energy prices forced a major CO2 producer, CF Fertilisers, to shut down its two UK plants last month as the Government stepped in for three weeks to prop up the firm in a move that was expected to cost taxpayers tens of millions of pounds

Ports across the world have also suffered significant delays.

"We anticipate the disruption will continue while the underlying market volatility stabilises," she said.

The world's largest container shipping company, the Danish firm AP Moller-Maersk, said the Suffolk port – which handles about 40 % of containers coming in and out of the UK – was among the most challenging ports in the world, after Los Angeles and Savannah in the US.

Year on year this port never has enough staff to cope with high demand.

Ikea and Nestle are among the huge businesses that say their products are being snarled up due to a lack of HGV drivers that is hitting all parts of British life

These volumes were forecast, there have been many meetings about the run up to Christmas.

The backlog at Felixstowe comes as the spectre of bare shelves continued to haunt supermarkets.

Meanwhile, there were warnings of price rises affecting staple items including baked beans and coffee.

Although CO2 is a only a small percentage of total cost for most soft drinks producers, the significantly higher prices for supply only add to the economic pressures already facing manufacturers, including the shortage of HGV drivers. '

This Department for Transport map shows how much traffic is handled by ports dealing with more than two million tonnes

The delays come as the Christmas period approaches, prompting concerns for many about deliveries.

But it is not only the UK that is experiencing the issues with the cargo ships.

Fears are growing about Christmas stock shortages after Felixstowe, the UK's biggest container port, was forced to turn away ships from Asia because of a backlog of containers caused by the HGV driver shortage.

As well as America's largest ports struggling to cope, matters have been made worse as China's Yantian port was forced to close.

Felixstowe (Image: Getty)

Stock levels as retailers call for inquiry [ REACTION ] Retailers 'pulling out all the stops' to meet demand [ REVEAL ] The significant issue with this is that it is far more than what the port is normally used to, with the number of containers 50 percent higher than normal.

Griff Lynch, the executive director of the Georgia Ports Authority, said : "They 're not coming to get their freight.

"The trouble is that now we don't have the same speed of flow of boxes moving in and out.

Jensen said congestion has been building for the past fortnight and as a result, Maersk was diverting as many as one in three large vessels to dock at Rotterdam in the Netherlands, where the goods are unloaded and brought to the UK on smaller ships.

Consumers are seeing products in some parts of supermarkets missing, due in large part to issues with deliveries and a shortage of C02 used in thousands of products

This can be challenging as a high proportion of ships are off schedule due to the well-publicised global supply chain issues and imports continue to arrive faster than the UK supply chain can handle them."

The British International Freight Association ( BIFA ) trade body said its members had been dealing with supply chain disruption for more than 12 months.

Robert Keen, director general of the BIFA, said the association's members "are working on close collaboration with suppliers to mitigate problems, including finding alternative routes to bring goods into the country, but there can be massive delays and extra costs over which BIFA members have little control".

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