British ports are braced for a month-long supply glut from Asia as container goods from televisions to sofas start to arrive while stores remain shut.
Disused airfields could be used to park hundreds of containers filled with clothes, furniture and electrical items as logistics bosses consider how to hold the cargo while warehouses prioritise food and essentials.
Port industry leaders warned that it remained “a complete unknown” whether British companies would be able or prepared to collect such goods during the lockdown.
Sites such as Felixstowe and Southampton were hit by a heavy fall in trade from China earlier in the year as Covid-19 damaged the country’s industries. With manufacturing sectors inside the world’s second largest economy now in recovery mode, its shipments to British shores — which can take up to 40 days — are arriving this month.
“Container ports are concerned that a lot of these goods will not be able to get shifted off site and will stay at ports,” said Richard Ballantyne, chief executive of the British Ports Association, which represents dozens of ports and operators.
Some directors are optimistic that this will be a “relatively short-term blip” as supply partners in China note the lower demand for non-food products in Britain and nearby markets.
Tim Morris, of UK Major Ports Group, said: “It looks increasingly likely we will have a window of glut and then a lower level of supply from Asia while the demand in Europe remains low.”
He believes that this window will be “something like April 20 to May 13”, concluding in a matter of weeks, rather than months . . . .
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