Huge stockpile equivalent to 11,000 containers of PPE builds at Port of Felixstowe
A huge stockpile of shipping containers filled with personal protective equipment (PPE) is being stored at the Port of Felixstowe - with fears goods being delivered for Christmas could get caught in the backlog.
It is understood that 11,000 TEU (20ft equivalent units) of PPE is currently being stored at the port, while dozens of shipping containers are now being piled up at a site near Melton Railway Station – with the number increasing day by day.
It is unknown if the Melton PPE stockpile is an overspill from the port.
The PPE, used by frontline medical staff, will help to ensure the NHS is well-stocked should the coronavirus pandemic continue to worsen.
However, concerns have been raised that the containers are exacerbating problems at the already stricken port - and could increase an existing backlog, causing “chaos” to both local and national businesses.
Earlier this month the port began to refuse taking on empty containers in a bid to clear the congestion backlog, which is said to have seen the time frame for a container to be shifted increased by as much as fivefold.
Last month, the British International Freight Organisation issued a statement saying freight forwarders were “suffering major operational damage” as a result of operational issues with the port’s vehicle booking system.
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A mid-sized Suffolk haulier, who wished to remain anonymous, also told this newspaper that retail will “suffer” as a result of problems at the port – and fears have been raised that they could lead to Christmas stock being delayed.
The containers could also cause further problems after the Brexit transition period ends on January 1.
Some PPE has left the port however, with 30 containers of equipment being transported to the capital by freight company Freightliner on Saturday, November 7.
A spokeswoman for the company said the equipment will be used to support healthcare workers within the NHS.
A spokesman for the Port of Felixstowe said: “We are proud to support the Government and to play a small part in helping ensure the NHS does not run out of vital PPE during this pandemic.
“Some of these containers have been at the port since August which does create additional pressure on top of a more general spike in volumes being experienced worldwide.
“We are working with the contractors to the Department of Health to remove these containers to off-port depots as quickly as possible.”
A Department of Health and Social Care spokesman said the government has a network in place to ensure demand is supplied over winter, but declined to comment on individual storage locations.