Buy Christmas presents early to beat shortages says shipping boss

The boss of a shipping agency has warned of less choice on the shelves at Christmas and urged people to plan ahead if they want to get the presents they want.

Peter Wilson, group managing director at Cory Brothers, a shipping agency that handles cargo and the logistics of processing goods, said that consumers will have to order Christmas presents far in advance to ensure they arrive as UK’s ports get congested due to the HGV driver shortage.

Shipping companies have started directing vessels away from the country’s biggest port at Felixstowe after it ran out of storage capacity.

The congestion is down to a lack of HGV drivers available to move the unloaded containers to free up space. Mr Wilson told Radio 4’s Today programme on Wednesday morning that congestion in ports was a global issue affecting Europe and the US West Coast. But added that the UK was being hit worst by the problems because of “the significant pinch point around HGV drivers”.

He continued: “That’s a really significant issue for us here in the UK. It’s much less of an issue for other European countries.”

Mr Wilson said that the consumers should “be sensible, think ahead, plan appropriately, order your Christmas goods and the items that you need in a timely fashion to ensure that you have them”.

Although he said the supply chain would not completely fail, Mr Wilson said that “there is potential nearer to Christmas [for] some items maybe not being available on shelves”.

He added that a range of products are likely to be affected but named white goods and Christmas toys as being particular “pinch points”.

Echoing the warnings from the world’s biggest shipping container company, Maersk, Mr Wilson said: “These issues around disruption will continue well into next year. It’s been an issues for us for about five-six months already.

“The supply chain is under considerable strain but it will not fail. Goods will be on the shelves for Christmas, there just may not be this choice that we are all used to.”

Most imported toys come through the port at Felixstowe because it is cheaper to ship them than to fly them. Electronics, bikes, homeware items and New Years’ fireworks are also thought to be affected.

Co-chairman of the Conservative Party Oliver Dowden insisted that the government was “getting on with the job of addressing” the problems caused by a lack of HGV drivers.

He told Sky News on Wednesday morning: “There is though clearly a challenging problem, particulary with HGV drivers, not just here, it’s across Europe. Poland, US, even China has this challenge, that’s why we’ve been taking steps to address it, whether it is, for example with training, 5,000 more places for training HGV drivers, making the process more flexible.

“We’re working through these challenges to address them.”

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