UK’s shipping port strike adds to fragile supply chain

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CHICAGO (NewsNation) — A strike at Britain’s biggest container port threatens to disrupt supply chains and economic activity across the country.

This comes as the nation reels from pandemic supply chain issues, and the West Coast harbors are plagued by bottlenecked traffic, the ripple effect now slowing down shipments into the East Coast and Gulf Coast ports. 

“The supply chain is misaligned whether we are talking West Coast or East Coast. it’s gotten more attention historically on the West Coast with last year’s drama, but it’s getting increasingly congested on the East Coast lately,” said Lisa Anderson, president of LMA Consulting Group.

Almost 2,000 workers at the Port of Felixstowe, located about 93 miles northeast of London, walked off the jobs Sunday over pay, raising fears of severe supply chain problems. The port handles around 4 million containers a year from 2,000 ships – almost half of the country’s incoming shipping freight.

During the first five months of this year, the volume of loaded containers reaching the port of New York and New Jersey rose 12 percent from the same period a year ago.

Surges of inbound cargo and limited storage are slowing down dockworkers and trucking companies trying to handle the situation that is bound to create even more problems.

“The East Coast ports aren’t as large, and can’t handle as much even though there’s less volume; it’s just as bad as far as congestion goes,” Anderson said.

Shipping officials believe a slowdown in cargo may come soon, as retailers are cutting back due to a slowdown in consumer spending and large amounts of inventory from last year. Overseas worries are with workers striking at Felixstowe, we may continue to see supply troubles here stateside. 

“We are a globally connected world so it will undoubtedly affect us,” Anderson said.

Sharon Graham, general secretary of Unite, the labor union that called for the strike, alleged the company that operates the “enormously profitable” dock and its parent company, C.K. Hutchison Holding Ltd, prioritized shareholder profits over worker welfare.

“They can give Felixstowe workers a decent pay raise. It’s clear both companies have prioritized delivering multimillion-pound profits and dividends rather than paying their workers a decent wage,” she said.

The Port of Felixstowe said in a statement that it regretted the impact the strikes would have on U.K supply chains. It said workers were offered a pay raise “worth over 8% on average in the current year.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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