The second round of strike action began at the Port of Felixstowe yesterday (27 September) with experts warning that trade flows might permanently shift to other ports.
Around 1,900 union members at Felixstowe are walking out between 27 September and 5 October after their union Unite rejected a pay deal, reports the BBC.
Felixstowe dockers previously went on strike for eight days from 21 August in pursuit of a pay deal that was closer to inflation - at the time 12.3% - than the offer from the port’s management.
Shift in ports
Less congestion at North European ports and cargoes getting in ahead of the action has allowed traders to manage their supply chains more effectively than during the first strike.
The Loadstar is reporting concerns that the ease with which carriers have managed potential disruption could be bad news for Felixstowe service providers, with observers fearing that it could lose out to rival UK ports such as Southampton and London Gateway.
Other experts are warning that the industrial action is stretching global supply chains in the run-up to the Christmas shipping period.
Samir Dani, professor of operations and supply chain management at Keele University, told the East Anglian Daily Times that supply chains could be under pressure as the Felixstowe action coincides with ongoing action clash at the Port of Liverpool.
Dani said the last round of strikes did not have a huge impact due to diversion of cargo and lower seasonal traffic.
“However, there is more concern around this second round because of Christmas,” he said. “Now is the time a lot of people will start buying so pressure on supply chains will be worrying some businesses.”
Christian Roeloffs, co-founder and CEO of logistics technology platform Container xChange told UK Haulier that the joint action would combine with China’s ‘Golden Week’ holiday period and the typhoon Muifa in the Pacific ocean to further disrupt peak season cargo from China.
“The cargo ships will be diverted to other ports in Europe and the UK, adding pressure to the congestion in the ports of Bremerhaven, Hamburg, Rotterdam, and major port hubs where our proprietary data shows the Container Availability Index is already at a very high level,” he said.
Felixstowe handles nearly half of the containerised freight entering the UK, including supplies of packaged food, clothing, electronic items and white goods, reports iNews.