DP World Southampton has set out a series of measures, including extended weekend opening hours, to deal with container congestion at the port which is says it affecting productivity.

The company said very high stack levels were the result of a number of factors “some of which are outside our control”. These include:

* Unseasonably large number of empty containers in the stack

* Many shipping line customers are over their empty limit allowance resulting in the empty park being full and additional empties overflowing into the regular stack. This, in turn, is blocking space for normal imports and exports.

* A large rise in transhipment containers where the lines discharge boxes from one ship to be picked up by another at a later date.

* Some lines are also skipping ports to make up for delays elsewhere and, in some instances, discharging cargo in Southampton instead of its original destination.

* Pre-Christmas peak: The unusually large number of empty containers, coupled with the normal pre-season peak volumes, has put additional pressure on our yard. Boxes are therefore stacked more densely, limiting manoeuvrability, which means it takes longer to pick and load boxes.

* Vessels cutting and running: Slower terminal productivity and a lack of space in our yard means that some shipping lines are choosing to ‘cut and run’, and leave the port before all their boxes have been discharged or loaded.

* Lack of UK haulage: There is a national problem with the UK haulage industry and a significant lack of available drivers. After the August bank holiday, import dwell times went up by 40 per cent meaning boxes are staying on our terminal for a least a day and a half longer than they usually do before being collected by a haulier. Again this impacts our stack levels which, in turn impacts our productivity.

It set out a series of measures to deal with the problem:

* Maximising resources on both landside and shipside to minimise the impact of the high stack levels.

* Extending landside operation over the whole weekend without additional charges.

* Asking the lines to ship as many empties as possible to reduce the empty stock in the terminal.

* Asking the lines to temporarily stop using Southampton to tranship empties from the US to Asia.

* Asking the lines for prior consultation before using Southampton to discharge cargo for other ports to help schedule recovery.

* Reducing the export-receiving window from the usual 10 days to 7 days to deter export boxes being brought into the terminal too far in advance of the vessel’s arrival.

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