Logjam continues at Felixstowe as it prepares to turn away empty return containers

Are we heading for a Christmas delay crisis? ITV News Correspondent Dan Rivers reports

Fresh concerns around delays to Christmas deliveries have been raised as ITV News learns that logjams at Britain's busiest port are continuing.

From 7am on Thursday, it is understood that Felixstowe will not be accepting any more empty return containers as it nears its 50,000 capacity limit.

The site has become severely congested, due in part to a shortage of HGV drivers, which could hamper Christmas deliveries if vacancies are not filled in time.

Felixstowe handles more than a third (36%) of UK container freight, so any delay in off loading containers could have a huge knock-on effect on the economy.

Maersk and Evergreen are the shipping companies thought likely to be affected.

ITV News understands that deliveries to Asda - particularly those linked with their George clothing line - have been impacted.

Sources told ITV News Mars - a manufacturer of confectionery and pet food - had also been affected by the congestion at the port. When we first put this to Mars on Monday, the company did not contest it. Five days later Mars gave us the following statement: ‘We can confirm that we are not impacted by container terminal backlogs at Felixstowe Port” without any further explanation.

As ITV News Business and Economics Editor Joel Hills writes, the port has refused to confirm what the 'dwell time' is for shipping containers that arrive on site.

Earlier this week, ITV News first revealed details of the logjam, with bosses at the port insisting the situation was improving.

These assurances, however, have been cast into doubt following the latest developments.

On Monday, ITV News revealed that the average shipping container which arrives at Felixstowe is spending more than nine days at the port before it is collected.

Will ships be turned away? ITV News Business and Economics Editor Joel Hills reported at the start of the week

This is double the average 'dwell time' for import containers in 2020. Big names are already feeling the impact, with IKEA confirming it had faced "some challenges in returning containers" to Felixstowe - but added it had "only seen minimal impact".

The port’s management is taking action to improve the flow of traffic but is considering turning vessels away unless the situation improves.

A Container ship at Felixstowe Port Credit: PA

Toy retailers are also warning of Christmas shortages and higher prices as the boss representing UK ports played down concerns about supply chains, saying there is “no need to panic”. Asked about suggestions that people should be buying their Christmas presents now to avoid disappointment, UK Major Ports Group chief executive Tim Morris told the PA news agency: “Our view would be that there’s no need to panic." “The global supply chains are very busy, but they’re pretty robust. “There’ll be short term some fluctuations, but retailers, their suppliers, all the logistics companies that work in between the manufacturing and the sales side will be working really, really hard to keep supplies moving."