Peel Ports has called for the supply chain to rethink its approach and take advantage of the full range of private, public and trust ports across the UK in order to address bottleneck problems.
The UK’s second largest port operator stated that the country’s network of 120 commercial ports is under-utilised and that commerce as a whole will gain from spreading the load.
David Huck, managing director of Group Ports at Peel Ports, said: “It might raise eyebrows that we’re encouraging companies to use competitors as well as ourselves, but these are exceptional times.
“Brexit, COVID, and the long-standing HGV driver shortage are all combining to challenge the supply chain like never before.”
According to Maritime UK, the UK ports industry handles 95% of UK import and export volume yet despite the large number of ports in the UK, much of the freight traffic is concentrated among a comparatively small percentage, with the top 20 ports accounting for 88% of the total.
Huck noted that congestion in southern ports has been an issue for a while and that there has traditionally been a huge reliance on the south to facilitate the UK’s supply chain.
“Currently 95% of goods enter the country via the south, yet 60% is actually destined for the north,” Huck added. “We have long argued the UK is too reliant on the South-East and the current climate calls for a serious rethink of the future alternative of regional ports being used as ports of entry and exit.”
Peel Ports has invested around £1.2bn (US$1.6bn) worth of infrastructure into its ports across UK and Ireland to prepare for increased demand and pressures on the supply chain.
Investments include the L2 container terminal in Liverpool, Brexit contingencies for HGV trailers, new rail connections to major UK city hubs and a heavy recruitment campaign to increase labour.
Following a successful trial this year, DKT Allseas announced that its China Xpress liner service will become a permanent route into Liverpool, complimented with the introduction of a new onward rail service into Freightliners Birmingham terminal.
Huck said: “The UK has excellent coverage throughout the country of ports for every size vessel and every commodity. We need to take full advantage of this by moving goods by sea as much as possible and doing so closest to their point of origin or their destination.
“That will reduce the pressure in congested areas and allow us to better use both the supply of haulage services and the road network. That is in everyone’s interests.”