UK supply chains, in particular, have gone through an incredibly challenging few months since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, followed by European delays incurred due to Brexit customs procedures.

On the international stage, the UK has been a prominent ambassador for overseas trading, but over the last few months there is reason to wonder whether we are now becoming the outcast of international logistics.

The Port of Felixstowe, quickly followed by other UK container ports, contributed heavily to the first indication that the UK had become a difficult place to trade with during the pandemic.

As port operations first slowed to an almost standstill last Autumn, and vessels were taking an age to berth, global carriers started to make the decision to divert vessels to the continent. This ultimately led to many Asia services omitting the UK altogether and ongoing fears that the UK could become a feeder market, much like Ireland.

Recent reports suggest that by omitting the UK, carriers can improve their roundtrip transit times and their carbon footprints, with feeder ships calling at numerous UK ports and localising domestic transport needs.  Of course, from a UK perspective this would likely mean higher rates and longer transit times in the long run.

However, the declining lack of appeal for providing services to and from the UK is not exclusive to Asian business. The current issues with customs in European road freight, brought about by Brexit, has led to the UK becoming a no-go zone for many international hauliers and therefore more issues with equipment availability.

The risk of vehicles and trailers incurring long delays travelling through customs at our ro-ro ports has made the UK an undesirable place to journey to. European logistics businesses have become very reluctant to serve the UK market and, if they do, the price is reflective of the current market conditions.

Of course, the coronavirus and Brexit have contributed to these unprecedented times and some normality will undoubtedly return over the coming months. Both will result in long term changes in the way we trade internationally, which will hopefully not damage the UK’s current prominent position.

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