Covid and Christmas are responsible for the chaos – not Brexit, writes Ross Clark

For some Dayhard Reimers, the images are a glimpse of what will happen after Britain leaves the European Union, especially if the No Deal is not effective.

Smoothing out rows of lorries on the way to and from the port of Dover; Docking at piling in shipping containers; From furniture and bikes to toys, high-tech gadgets and car parts, there are rumors of rotten food where it is loaded.

The growing chaos in UK ports at the moment is due to fears that millions of families will not receive their ordered items and gifts in time, but food prices are rising, as supermarkets have Christmas without stocks to replenish.

The reason, of course, is not Brexit. Instead, blame a strong combination of events.

A strong combination of events has put Britain’s ports under enormous pressure, but Brexit is not to blame. Image: Rows of lorries in Dover on 11 December

First and foremost, the coronavirus epidemic has disrupted international shipping from Asia and there is a shortage of containers in China because vacancies from ports around the world have not been returned.

At the same time, anxious British consumers have begun to increase demand from suppliers ahead of a possible No Dale Brexit, which has also increased demand for goods Christmas.

To complicate matters further, PPE has an unusually large incoming drive to deal with the dockside, as well as delays for freight lorries in the Channel Tunnel. Also, dockside workers have been affected by illness or need to be isolated due to exposure to the virus.

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All of these factors combined have put Britain’s ports under tremendous pressure. Some ships are now sailing across our ports to Rotterdam.

Felixto, which handles 40 per cent of container traffic in the UK, has been the hardest hit, but problems are spreading at Southampton and the London Gateway.

All companies, including Apple, fashion chain Primark and River Island, sofa firm DFS and folding bicycle manufacturer Brompton, have warned that their products are now facing long delays and in some cases, may not come here for several weeks.

Honda announced this week that it has suspended car production due to a shortage of imported parts.

For Felixtoy, the biggest problem is that there are PPE holders for NHS and care homes that government freight forwarders were slow to get out of the port. At one point there were 11,000 containers sitting on the dockside, although port authorities now say the backlog will be cleared by the end of this week.

The growing chaos in UK ports at the moment is such that there are fears that Christmas will be ruined for the millions of families who do not receive their ordered items and gifts on time.  Image: A lorry driver responds while in Qatar to enter the port of Dover

The growing chaos in UK ports at the moment is such that there are fears that Christmas will be ruined for the millions of families who do not receive their ordered items and gifts on time. Image: A lorry driver responds by standing in line to enter the port of Dover

About 2,000 additional trucks pass by every day, especially in the UK

About 2,000 additional trucks pass by every day, especially in the UK

A spokesman for the Chanel Tunnel, meanwhile, blamed the sheer amount of traffic from stockpiling, providing medical care for Christmas pre-building and covid care, and transporting vaccines.

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About 2,000 additional trucks pass by every day, especially in the UK.

The traffic management system has done very little to alleviate traffic congestion by throwing it into the mix and the chaos is nothing short of surprising.

These images of Dover’s long week of tailbacks were a direct result of a campaign called the Traffic Access Protocol (TAP). It controls traffic lights on the A20 to avoid overcrowding in the coastal town of Kantish – and instead blocks the main trunk road to the city.

After the tap was lifted yesterday, traffic began to flow freely again.

At the heart of the crisis is the impact of the epidemic on transportation from China and the Far East, which is affecting ports around the world. Demand has risen further as businesses shut down after lockdowns and customers resumed spending.

PPE has unusually large incoming shipments to deal with the dockside.  At one point there were 11,000 containers sitting on the dockside, although port authorities now say the backlog will be cleared by the end of this week.  Image: Shipping container pile at Southampton dockside

PPE has unusually large incoming shipments to deal with the dockside. At one point there were 11,000 containers sitting on the dockside, although port authorities now say the backlog will be cleared by the end of this week. Image: Shipping container pile at Southampton dockside

The companies were caught off guard after Chinese factories closed in January with the first hit of the Covid hit, now starting to move away from the so-called in-time supply line to stock up on key ingredients and other materials to further boost demand.

At LA-Long Beach, California, America’s busiest cargo complex, 20 cargo ships are anchored, unable to offload their shipments. In Australia, a long-running industrial dispute between dock workers and port authorities is adding to long delays in the closure and delivery of goods.

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Britain is one of the most passionate business countries in the world: a small, densely populated archipelago with a limited number of very compact ports. Just connected to the adequate road system and there always arrives in large numbers of lorries and containers.

In post-Brexit Britain, when the new customs check came into effect on 1 January, the government took various steps to reduce the sessions.

An internal tariff facility is being set up just outside Ashford, Kent, to process lorries before reaching the Dover or Channel Tunnel.

This weekend, trials will introduce new barriers to allow traffic on the M20 in situations where lorries have to be held on the motorway.

If no trade agreement is reached with the EU before the end of the transition period on 1 January, there will certainly be some problems in British ports.

But the bigger picture is that as the global economy begins to recover from a very sharp contraction, we are only beginning to realize how much it depends on freight.

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About the Author: Forrest Morton

Organizer. Zombie aficionado. Wannabe reader. Passionate writer. Twitter lover. Music scholar. Web expert.

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