Felixstowe strike could add extra costs to consumers

Categories: Salford Business School

Workers at the UK's largest container port are striking for the first time in 30 years.  This means 1,900 workers have ceased operations at Felixstowe for eight days over an ongoing pay dispute.

The Port of Felixstowe is the UK’s busiest container port and handles around 48% of the UKs import and export container trade

Dr Jonathan Owens, logistics and supply chains expert at the University of Salford Business School, said: “Felixstowe is the gateway to the UK and our country’s busiest container port. The striking workers are critical to the inbound and outbound operations and include crane drivers, machine operators and stevedores who load and unload ships.

“The strike is a week and may not cause too much disruption as Felixstowe is not a 'just-in-time' delivery port.  In general, everything arriving is scheduled in advance.  Should the strike progress go on beyond the current time or more disruption planned quickly after this strike period, then alternative inbound supply routes will be found. 

“There should be enough stock in the supply chain to cope with key products.  Where the problems could arise is if there is significant spiking relating to consumer panic, which is not necessary.  We should remember the industry has developed a certain amount of resilience and flexibility in to supply chain and learnt lessons from the pandemic and can divert goods into distributive or holding ports where necessary.

“However, the potential slowing down of the supply due to inbound and outbound redirection, does mean it impacts the second, third, and even fourth tiers distributors.  The collection and delivery to other port across the UK could be at a perhaps more uneven and unbalanced pace.  This could result in additional costs for customers in the short and medium term.  Ships being diverted or leaving from a new port could mean a longer journey times with more additional costs to be considered.  These cost cannot be carried for long by the distributors and they will have to pass this on to the customer.  It is this part of the supply chain that should be responsive and could become potentially stretched due to increased lead times and journey times.”   

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