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Global shipping crisis to increase UK prices

Businesses have warned about likely price increases for imported goods. The logistics industry says a global shipping crisis is leaving companies with little room to move. Businesses will either reflect the industry's issues in prices or stop importing goods altogether. 

Krista Lomu
· 3 min read

Businesses have warned about likely price increases for imported goods. The logistics industry says a global shipping crisis is leaving companies with little room to move. Businesses will either reflect the industry's issues in prices or stop importing goods altogether. 

The coronavirus created initial disruptions to the global shipping industry earlier in the year. The demand for imports has surged since then. Empty shipping containers are not available to exporters in China, causing bottlenecks at UK ports. Fewer vessels are also sailing to the UK. 

Major shipping companies and different industry representatives warn about the consequences these delays and issues could cause. Honda said its production at its Swindon plant would halt temporarily due to logistics issues

Port problems are the worst at Felixstowe, with Southampton now suffering from delays. A spokesperson for DP World in the UK told the BBC the issues in Southampton worsened in the past weeks partly due to bad weather. 

Organisations urge the government to act

Representatives for UK's ports, shipping and logistics sectors are urging the government to take action. In a letter to Transport Secretary Grant Shapps, they asked the government to find ways to improve capacity to clear bottlenecks. 

Tim Morris, chief executive of ports' trade association the UK Major Ports Group, said the solution could lie in a range of measures. He said solutions could mean "running more and longer trains to and from ports, allowing hauliers more flexibility to collect containers out of normal hours, and for drivers to take on longer shifts where that can be done safely". 

Businesses warn about price rises

Logistics firms are warning business owners the delays could continue up to three months. Businesses have already witnessed delays in getting their hands on the stock. Shipping costs and surcharges for port congestion add up, and these costs could pass down the line to consumers. 

Many importing companies operate on a credit system. The system means businesses pay suppliers after the stock arrives in the UK. But delays in UK ports mean many are paying suppliers before the stock moves away from the port. The delays are creating cashflow issues and putting pressure on businesses to push up prices. 

Ports are hoping to get back to a regular schedule in the coming weeks. But representatives also warned about the looming Brexit deadline at the end of the year. Ports could witness further pressure depending on the outcome of the negotiations. Any further disruptions to logistics could reflect in higher consumer prices.

Krista Lomu

Krista Lomu

Krista has been writing about finance for nearly a decade. Based in London, she hopes to turn even the most complicated topics to approachable and interesting for readers. When she's not writing and working with small businesses, she likes to read, watch football and play games - fuelled on by many cups of coffee!
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