The BTHA calls for Government intervention to ease UK ports and ‘save the festive season’

The British Toy and Hobby Association and the British Retail Consortium are calling on the Government to intervene at British ports where congestion caused by Covid and a backlog of PPE has left shipments of toys and gifts unlikely to be delivered in time for Christmas.

The BTHA is among a number of industry bodies calling for an inquiry into the problems at ports such as Felixstowe and Southampton, as well as Government intervention in order to ‘save the festive season’ and get more cargo into the UK.

Retailers have said that toys, games, puzzles, and dolls ordered from China in August and September have still not arrived after delays in Asia and problems unloading in Britain. The BTHA has called on the Prime Minister to clear containers of PPE currently clogging up the docks and bring back more staff to ease the congestion.

They are also calling for ports such as Liverpool, Hull, Portsmouth, Tilbury, and London Gateway to pick up more of the slack.

The problems have been added to with reports that shipping costs of containers from Qingdao, China to Felixstowe, Suffolk have been hiked up to $10,000 (£7,500) per load. That’s four times the usual rate.

The Daily Mail reports that log-jams at container ports means that a number of hauliers are switching to using ferries and the Channel Tunnel to make their delivery targets. Around 2,000 extra trucks have been crossing through the Channel Tunnel every day.

The BTHA has said: “We would urge the government to help at this crucial tie for business, to save the festive season and alleviate blockages now ahead of the UK’s departure from the EU.”

According to the Department for Transport, the container capacity issues being experienced are not unique to the UK and that ports around the world are experiencing similar events.

“The government is working closely with the freight industry to work through the challenges some of our ports are facing,” it said. 

Factors such as a rise in imports following the UK’s first coronavirus lockdown and Brexit-related concerns, as well as containers of PPE not being collected, have been cited as the leading causes of the congestion.

Helen Dickinson, chief executive at the British Retail Consortium, said: “The lead up to Christmas is the most important time of year for retailers, ordinarily accounting for up to a fifth of the entire year’s sales and generating a large part of annual revenues.

“After a tremendously challenging 2020, many firms’ cashflows are under severe pressure, and so business are in no position to absorb these additional shipping costs. As a result, consumers will pay the final price.

“Christmas orders could be delayed, and retailers might be left with no option but to increase product prices. These issues must be addressed urgently. An inquiry would provide the scrutiny needed to help get our ports flowing freely again.”

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