Delays at UK ports double as Brexit bureaucracy slows customs

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Downtime at UK ports has more than doubled since last spring as global supply chains crack.

Shippers spent an average of more than seven days unloading at UK ports last month, well above the European average of around five days.

The figure rose to almost nine days in January as the introduction of post-Brexit customs rules led to new red tape and import controls.

Data from FourKites shows UK discharge port dwell times have risen sharply from a low of 3.6 days last April, while remaining fairly stable across the rest of the continent. The supply chain logistics company also saw a sharp drop in the percentage of shipments to Europe going through the UK.

Britain’s share of transhipments, when a ship stops at a port en route to another destination, has fallen to 4% from 14% in February 2021, suggesting shipping companies may be avoiding UK ports for stopovers of transfer.

At the same time, several European countries have increased their share of maritime transfers, mainly at the expense of Belgium.

There were lengthy lorry delays in Calais last month following the introduction of new regulations, which required goods entering Britain from the EU to undergo full customs checks.

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine threatens to prolong the disruption just as signs were emerging that inflation-fueling lags had begun to fade, economists warned.

FourKites’ Glenn Koepke predicted ocean rates could double from current levels as east-to-west rail lines across Ukraine are blocked.

World merchandise trade was booming at the end of last year, with total merchandise trade up 1.1% from November.

This brought the increase for 2021 to 10.3%, according to the CPB Office in Amsterdam. The surge is attributed to a general increase in demand for goods following global lockdowns.

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