Shipping containers prices skyrocketed in the UK

December 7, 2021 by
Frank Calviño
Photo by William William for Unsplash

Shipping containers prices in the UK are on the rise again. And it is due to a combination of factors that are slowly but surely evolving into a massive problem: Last week, two major cargo shipping companies, Maersk and MSC, said they were swapping Felixstowe port for Liverpool in order to "provide stability" to their transatlantic trade services. That’s how bad things are in the UK right now. 

Alex Veitch, boss of trade group Logistics UK, blamed the disruption on "the three C's".

"It's the Christmas rush, coronavirus, which is still causing supply chain disruption, and now customs - or the uncertainty around it, with businesses taking the decision to move goods in and out of the UK in case there is a no-deal Brexit," he told the BBC. 

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UK container shipping nightmare 

This situation has made the shipping costs of three British ports – Liverpool, Southampton, and Port of London –  the priciest destinations in Europe for sending a standard 20ft container from Shanghai, the world’s busiest port.

On average it costs around £9,112 to send a container to Liverpool from Shanghai. That is 58 percent higher than the £5,736 price of Rotterdam, the cheapest European destination. For Southampton, the cost was £8,306 and for Port of London, which includes Tilbury and London Gateway, it was £7,900.

In 2019, before the pandemic, the average cost of sending a container from Shanghai to Europe was just £592. The cost of shipping a container of goods is now nearly 550 percent higher than the seasonal average for the last five years.

Brexit, covid and bad planning 

This container crisis it’s global in its origin, but for the UK has become far more acute than it should be, due to a combination of the disastrous Brexit situation, the Covid pandemic, and the destruction of the global supply chains, and on top, UK bad planning for dealing with the previous two. 

For example, most of the UK-bound goods are often transferred to Britain from vessels docking in major hubs such as Rotterdam. Something that was perfectly viable in the pre-pandemic pre-Brexit scenario but that now generates extra costs that, in turn, are raising the prices of many other products on the island, due to a natural inflation phenomenon. 

For the UK the way out of this mess will necessarily require for the global chain supply networks to stabilize. Something that could happen mid-summer next year, where global supply chains might be able to finally adapt to the Covid crisis, and cope with all the other associated problems. 

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