Hundreds of empty shipping containers are STILL stacked up in Suffolk after nearly a year: Metal mountain piled up in 2021 amid congestion at Port of Felixstowe caused by HGV driver shortage and global shipping crisis
- The 40ft containers have been sitting on sites near to Felixstowe for 10 months
- It comes amid employee strikes at the port and a shortage of HGV drivers
- Why the mountain remains is unclear, but shipping costs are a likely factor
- Congestion at the UK’s busiest port is thought to be behind container blockages
Hundreds of shipping containers which have been blotting the landscape in Suffolk for almost a year are still standing as nearby port Felixstowe deals with huge volumes of cargo, rapidly increasing costs and a shortage of HGV drivers.
Dozens of 40ft containers have been piling up in fields across the county for the last 12 months, including one site near Mendlesham where containers have not moved for almost a year.
The containers, which cost around £5,000 each, have been stacked in huge towers at a number of locations around Suffolk.
Hundreds were pictured yesterday at the disused airfield in Mendlesham, in exactly the same position as they were last year, whilst hundreds more were spotted at a huge yard in Newmarket.
The site in Mendlesham is owned by haulier Gary Banham, the BBC reports. MailOnline was unable to reach Mr Banham for comment.
The huge stacks of containers are thought to be a result of high shipping costs, a shortage of HGV drivers and a huge demand for goods post-pandemic: but the exact reason for the containers at the Mendlesham site is unclear.
It comes as thousands of workers at nearby Felixstowe port walked out in strike action yesterday which will continue into next month.
Last year Felixstowe, the busiest cargo port in the UK, was hit by serious congestion which caused container ships to divert to other ports.
Rising shipping costs could drive global inflation higher by 1.5 percent, according to the IMF.
The mountain of containers is five-high in places and has shown no sign of moving since it was first photographed last year
This aerial image shows the container storage facility in November 2021, at the height of Felixstowe’s supply chain issues
Hundreds of containers are shown to still be on the site today, which is reportedly owned by haulier Gary Banham
Shipping containers from companies including Maersk, Cisco and Evergreen are among those which could be seen on the site
The container mountain as seen from above, ten months after it was first pictured
The mountain lies near Mendlesham in Suffolk, not far from the port of Felixstowe
Felixstowe Port said it did not know anything about the metal mountain in Eye last year, as shipping companies and hauliers aren’t under any obligation to tell the port about their container arrangements
An aerial photo taken on October 30 showing huge piles of shipping containers that gathered at the Suffolk port
Pictures from the port on the Suffolk coast showed containers piled up over the gigantic dockside, as the British International Freight Association said it understood average ‘dwell times’ for cargo at the port nearly doubled in two weeks, from five to 9.7 days.
Meanwhile in nearby Eye, locals were left baffled last year after around 1,000 storage containers appeared on a disused RAF base with no explanation.
The land is owned by car and commercial vehicle company the Roy Humphrey Group, and partner Oliver Humphrey said at the time his firm had been approached by a local haulage company who needed space to store the containers.
Hundreds of empty steel containers stretching for 350 feet and reaching 60 feet in height were being stored on a former airfield off the A140 near Eye, Suffolk, just 26 miles from Britain’s biggest container port.
What’s going on? THREE key issues causing containers to stack up
The huge pile of containers in Suffolk is being caused by three key problems, according to industry figures.
1 – GLOBAL SHIPPING CRISIS
The system for shipping goods around the world stopped working properly when economies shut down and reopened at different times as they dealt with Covid.
This led to shipping firms falling behind when it came to retrieving empty containers from European ports and taking them back to factories in Asia.
The container shortage is being exacerbated by a lack of staff across the global supply chain – including sailors, hauliers and warehouse workers – due to people falling ill or having to quarantine.
In recent weeks pictures have emerged showing dozens of ships waiting to enter ports on America’s west coast because they have not been able to unload their containers.
2 – LORRY DRIVER SHORTAGE
The issue is being exacerbated because there are not enough truck drivers to pick up and deliver fully loaded containers and return the empty ones. Today, Maersk – the world’s largest freight transporter – said this was a particular problem in the UK and US.
In Britain, the shortfall has been blamed largely on Covid and Brexit, which has seen many drivers move into more comfortable occupations or return home to Europe. Since last year, the industry has also seen large numbers of drivers retiring, while lockdown has hit the training of new drivers with 40,000 HGV driver tests cancelled.
3 – CHRISTMAS RUSH
There is always a spike in demand for goods in the run up to Christmas, which is making congestion at ports worse.
4 – RISING SHIPPING COSTS
Shipping costs have risen to as much as four times prices at the start of the pandemic, according to data from the IMF.
Fuel prices in particular have made shipping overseas far more expensive, with reports it is now cheaper to buy brand new shipping containers than reship old ones.
The IMF says the rise in shipping costs in 2021 could increase inflation by a further 1.5 percentage points in 2022.
They are believed to have come from all over the world, including major manufacturing hubs in Taiwan and China.
The West imports far more goods from China than it exports, meaning many shipping containers are returned to China while empty.
But amid rising fuel costs and a lack of qualified drivers, shipping prices have increased by up to 350 percent since the beginning of the pandemic, industry sites report.
This has led to backlogs at UK ports as some companies prefer to buy new shipping containers instead of reusing ones returned to China, due to this being cheaper.
There is also a large market for the rent and resale of shipping containers for storage and conversion in the UK and Europe.
The Eye site, used by Maersk – the world’s biggest shipping company, was used to store empty containers to clear space at Felixstowe so more imports could arrive.
An industry source told MailOnline: ‘Essentially it’s overflow from Felixstowe.
‘There are insufficient drivers to move empty containers and lots of congestion around the world because of Covid – some ports in China and further afield have been blocked and are just getting back up to speed.
‘So it’s like a game of Jenga with lots of moving pieces. What’s happened here is that these containers have got snarled up at Felixstowe.
‘Rather than leaving empty containers at the port and letting them clog it up further, what seems to have happened is a deal has been done with the landowner to temporarily store them there.’
It comes after nearby Felixstowe Port has been struggling to cope with the volume of cargo passing through during the last year due to a shortage of HGV drivers and Brexit issues.
Further strike action began at the port this week after the union Unite rejected a pay deal, and will last until at least October 5.
Around 1,900 union members took action for eight days last month, with Unite asking for a pay rise to match the rate of inflation – currently around 10 per cent.
The port said it was ‘very disappointed’ with the further strike action.
Unite general secretary Sharon Graham said: ‘Felixstowe and CK Hutchison [the port’s owners] are both eye-wateringly wealthy, but rather than offer a fair pay offer, they have instead attempted to impose a real terms pay cut.
‘Since the beginning of this dispute, Unite has given its total support to its members at Felixstowe and that will continue until this dispute is resolved.’
Phil Pemberton, Unite’s full-time convenor at the port, told the BBC: ‘After the first strike action that we took we asked the company to meet with us to see if we could resolve this through negotiation.
‘They’ve chosen not to, which we believe is unprofessional.
‘So we believe it was on us to put more pressure on the company to do just that and meet with us and try to settle this the best way we can.
‘We’re now in a position where we’ve had to take another eight-day strike action because the company refuses to talk to us.’
The Port of Felixstowe said: ‘We are very disappointed that Unite has announced this further strike action. The collective bargaining process has been exhausted and there is no prospect of agreement being reached with the union.
‘The port is in the process of implementing a very fair pay increase of 7% plus £500.
‘The pay award is effective from 1 January when CPI inflation was 5.4%. One branch of Unite at the port has already put the same pay offer to their members who voted to accept it.
‘The next pay rise is due 1 January 2023 and we will discuss that with Unite in the normal way.’
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