Port of Felixstowe strikes could mean empty shelves for UK shoppers, says Cambridgeshire haulier

  • Video report by ITV News Anglia's Callum Fairhurst

The boss of a major logistics firms has warned shoppers may notice gaps on shelves if industrial action continues at the Port of Felixstowe.

Ross Taylor, the chief executive of Cambridgeshire-based Buffaload, who oversees a fleet of 450 drivers, told ITV News Anglia industrial action at the UK's biggest port was a "disaster".

“It definitely could be as bad as empty shelves," he said.

Around 1,900 members of the Unite union based at the Port of Felixstowe in Suffolk walked out on Sunday in an ongoing dispute over pay.

The industrial action is the first of its kind at the port since 1989.

The cargo Buffaload delivers includes food goods for supermarkets, running around 1,000 deliveries from Felixstowe a week, and Mr Taylor said any gap in the supply chain could have a huge knock-on effect.

“The recovery time to get back to normal could take weeks or months," he said.

“Plus all of the products that are on the sea which are perishable, which won't be delivered, which will all be waste. So there's going to be a huge backlog. It could take weeks after we get started again to get things back to normal."

Mr Taylor’s company alone is looking at a potential loss of hundreds of thousands of pounds a week, with 40% fewer goods being moved, if the dispute is not resolved soon, he said. 

Union workers on strike outside the Port of Felixstowe. Credit: PA

Union members which include crane drivers and machine operators voted by more than 9-1 in favour of strikes.

“Felixstowe is basically the beginning of where all the goods come in and most of the products we use are imported from Europe and the rest of the world. So it's a major part of the supply chain," said Mr Taylor.

“You only need a small part of someone's ingredients, and then they can't make the full product range, so then they can't sell it. So it's a disaster.

“Every one of my customers relies on Felixstowe: [that's] 150 customers that manufacture in the UK. So basically every single one of them is going to be majorly affected by Felixstowe in some way, shape or form.”

For the logistics industry, the strike disruption is just the latest in a long list of recent difficulties.

“It just seems like problem after problem coming at us since Brexit and Covid. It’s been very difficult trading times," added Mr Taylor.

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