In the last blog that I posted on 17 November, I warned about the storm which was brewing in relation to freight coming into the UK from the Far East.
Peak seasonal demand, combined with a worldwide shortage of ships, containers and crew and a growing reluctance amongst many carriers to land at congested UK ports had all combined to push freight prices up to what were, at that point, record levels.
I was hoping by now to be able to report that the situation was easing, but in actual fact, it’s deteriorated even more over the last couple of weeks. Just yesterday, Honda has announced that it has halted production at its Swindon plant because of the problems importing components.
To give you an idea, a 40-foot container coming into the UK from China which was available at a rate of $6000 in November has now shot up to $10000, when in normal times we would expect to be paying around $2500.
Like so much else in 2020, we find ourselves in unchartered territory, and we’ve even had news that a number of big shipping lines are suspending all freight bookings into the UK until almost the end of December.
With Brexit looming on top, the whole freight market is facing a crisis which will undoubtedly lead to delays and freight surcharges in the UK – and not just for the fenestration hardware business.
As I said last time though, Mila is very much on top of the issue when it comes to getting stock to our customers. At the height of the shortages, as well as spending eye-watering sums on airfreight, we were reworking products held in our warehouse to suit different specifications, assembling other products in house, offering higher spec alternatives at no additional cost and shipping in all available stock from our sister companies in Ireland and Denmark. Now, we’ve made a judgement that we will pay what needs to be paid in order to restore our stock levels to something like normal.
Realistically though, with Chinese New Year and the associated shut down happening in February, I don’t expect us to achieve that until the beginning of March.
However, we have been on the front foot throughout the pandemic in responding to customers’ needs, and I can assure you that we already have huge consignments on their way to us and others scheduled in for January and February – albeit, sadly, at much inflated freight costs.