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Congestion at UK ports 'out of control' ahead of Brexit

10 December 2020, 16:07 | Updated: 10 December 2020, 16:13

By Emma Corr

Congestion at UK ports is "not under control" and will only get worse after the Brexit transition period expires at the end of the month, a cargo director has told LBC.

Steve Williams, an operations director at Portico Shipping in Portsmouth, said the backlog of goods currently seen at UK ports "is just the beginning".

The cargo worker told LBC that the coronavirus pandemic and Brexit had both impacted the flow of goods into and out of Britain, with empty and full containers now just sitting at ports "with nowhere to go".

He also warned that congestion will get worse in the build-up to, and weeks after, the transition period expiring at the end of the month which could affect delivering Christmas orders on time.

"Brexit has had an impact," he said.

"People are trying to get goods into the UK, trying to avoid paying extra tariffs or customs clearance in the new year."

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Congestion at UK ports is out of control, according to an operations director in Portsmouth
Congestion at UK ports is out of control, according to an operations director in Portsmouth. Picture: LBC

He added: "It's causing a bigger backlog in the major ports so they're stuck with either empty containers or full containers with nowhere to go."

Mr Williams said: "This is just the beginning. People are saying it's under control. It isn't under control."

However, he told LBC that smaller ports across Britain, such as Portsmouth, are helping the flow of goods between the UK and Europe.

Asked what the implications of a large backlog are, he said: "It's goods not moving.

"You've got hundreds of thousands of lorries in the UK driving around with fresh air, an empty box, so goods for the Christmas markets, for the New Year are stuck in Asia, in countries beyond the UK not being able to get in because the empty boxes are stuck in the UK."

His company has had to employ 25 extra staff in its customs agency department to help with customs clearance and to deal with extra congestion caused by the pandemic and Brexit preparations.

"I think when the world closed in the first wave of Covid during March and April, all these containers around all the major ports were just stuck so there were no imports or exports and this is a combination of everything that's backlogged over the last six months," he said.

"If we can get empty containers off the road and full containers on the road then people will be able to get their Christmas presents."

Additional reporting from Nick Hardinges.