Logistics strikes could mean Christmas shortages again this year

Following confusion with Brexit customs clearance and a Europe-wide shortage of HGV drivers, there were shortages of foodstuffs and seasonal items during the Christmas period in 2021. This year, the HGV drivers shortage, the cost of living crisis, and logistics strikes are affecting supply chains in the lead up to the Christmas period. But what is causing these issues, and how will they affect your business? Find out in this article.

Sea logistics strikes


Strikes have been taking place across Europe and the UK over the cost of living crisis and workers pay.

Earlier this year, the Central Association of German Seaports (ZDS) were unable to reach an agreement with workers’ union Ver.di over wages. The result was a series of strikes affecting the ports of Hamburg, Emden, Bremen, Bremerhaven, Brake, and Wilhelmshaven. The reduced service caused shipping lines to divert container shipments to ports in northern Europe. The congestion has not yet been resolved.

The Port of Felixstowe is currently on strike for eight days, after the Felixstowe Port and Railway Company was unable to reach an agreement with workers’ union Unite. The strike began on Monday 21st August, and will end after the shift on Monday 28th August. 

In an effort to reduce the impact on their customers, shipping lines have diverted some container shipments to ports across northern Europe for feeder transfer at a later date. Other shipping lines have diverted vessels to other UK ports so that the containers are available, even if they are not in Felixstowe as intended. However, the Port of Felixstowe services nearly half of the UK’s container imports, and the eight-day drop in service will mean lasting congestion as the backlog is cleared.

Strike action likely at the Port of Liverpool

99% of Unite workers at the Port of Liverpool have rejected their proposed pay increase of 7% from Peel Ports. At the ballot on 15th August, over 500 workers voted in favour of industrial action. There is no planned strike yet, though.

As more strikes compound the congestion across European and UK ports, shipments that are due for the Christmas selling period could be delayed. Following a similar experience in 2020 where Christmas shipments arrived after the new year, due to rising congestion from the COVID19 pandemic closing ports, importers may be reluctant to risk the delays again.

Rail strikes


Inside the UK, it is not only sea logistics strikes that are affecting supply chains. Rail workers have been taking industrial action due to wages, and began striking in June. Recent action began again on Saturday 13th August, and continues to affect the freight and passenger sectors as four separate unions orchestrate strikes across the UK.

The Port of Felixstowe is the largest rail freight terminal in the UK, so the combination of logistics strikes is causing quayside congestion of containers. 25% of all imports, and 50% of shipments to the North, are transported by rail from Felixstowe. If the Port of Liverpool does go on strike, then the impact to northern supply chains will be significant, with the congestion potentially lasting until after the Christmas period.

Are you worried about strike actions affecting your supply chain?

Universal Customs Clearance provide clearance services for every major seaport in the UK. If your shipments are diverted because of logistics strikes, then we are still here to help, and may be able to recommend a partner for your inland delivery. Contact us for more information.


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