Former Suffolk airbase stood down from role as potential freight store

Containers continue to arrive at the Port of Felixstowe. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Containers continue to arrive at the Port of Felixstowe. Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN - Credit: Archant

Freight operators feared a glut of containers full of goods could pose major problems for Britain’s logistics industry at the start of the lockdown – with Suffolk at the sharp end of this crisis.

But despite making plans which included potentially storing thousands of containers on former airfields like Bentwaters, they are now confident the immediate threat of being overwhelmed with unwanted goods has passed.

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When the lockdown was imposed in late March, there were tens of thousands of containers heading to the UK on ships from all over the world. The UK lockdown was imposed just two weeks after the Chinese lockdown was eased – allowing factories there to start sending containers full of goods that had been held up for months.

The fear was that by the time these containers reached the UK there would be no market for what they contained – and they could not be taken to closed shops which had no room for their goods.

The trade bodies representing logistics companies contacted their members to ask if the knew of any sites where containers could be safely stored – and a number of potential locations were identified.

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However in the event they were not needed, although a number of sites including Bentwaters could be considered again if the need did arise.

Bee Kemball from Debach Enterprises said: “We were asked if we had anywhere available, but fortunately it seems as if that will not be necessary. A lot of the things being imported now are actually things that are needed quite urgently so the industry is concentrating on getting them out to their final destination as quickly as possible.”

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Freight companies working out of Felixstowe did spend some time making storage plans in the days immediately after lockdown was brought in – but one freight manager said things seemed to have eased considerably now: “There was concern in the first few days – but once we got through that and the supply end adjusted it became clear that we should not need to make alternative plans.”

However there could be some problems in the future – with spring fashion clothes being held up in containers which might have to be held until the first half of 2021, providing fashion tastes have not changed dramatically by then.

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