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Congestion and logjams. Where?

22 January 2018

By Aart Hille Ris Lambers, Head of Commercial, DP World Southampton


“Never let the truth get in the way of a good story.” (Mark Twain 1835 -1910).  In the transport and logistics sector this historical proverb enables the use of those words that can concern us the most: ‘congestion’ and ‘logjam’.

And without wishing to turn this into a “fake news” debate, there have been stories and allegations circulating of poor service and congestion at Southampton’s container terminal. But, as always, there is more to the story than just the headline.  

Reports of congestion, logjams and allegations of issues with dropping off and collecting boxes at DP World Southampton are factually incorrect.

We all know the shipping alliance reshuffle in early 2017 was the biggest shake up of the liner industry in history. And it’s not finished yet.  We are expecting some more product changes from the three global shipping alliances around April 2018 and further consolidation with the start of the new Ocean Network Express (ONE) and the merger of COSCO and OOCL.

In the UK, especially, 2017 saw different shipping lines calling at different ports on different days of the week. Traditional Felixstowe lines started calling at Southampton and traditional Southampton lines started calling at Felixstowe. On top of this DP World London Gateway was added to the mix of destinations for Asia/Europe services.

Supply chain patterns have been disrupted and everyone in the ocean freight supply chain has had to adapt and make changes.

Yes, the increasing number of ultra-large container ships, which means less vessel calls but bigger discharges, has had some effect.  All deep-sea ports now see higher peaks and this has been compounded by poor schedule reliability putting a squeeze on inland transport logistics.

The shipping alliances are addressing their schedule reliability which will help spread the peak and troughs for inland transport.

Despite all this change from the shipping lines, Southampton’s service levels and performance have not changed during the last year. 



Arguably, the creation of THE Alliance and Ocean Alliance sent the biggest ripples through the container logistics supply chain. Some established transport networks had to adapt as lines moved from their traditional ‘home port’ of either Southampton or Felixstowe.

Especially during April and May 2017 there was a lot of upheaval and uncertainty for cargo owners, freight forwarders and hauliers as the shipping lines moved services between ports and everyone had to familiarise themselves with the different operations.

We do recognise that some of the traditional Felixstowe based hauliers followed their shipping line customers to the ports of Southampton and London Gateway and had to look to establish new facilities, which brings a different cost picture. The largest hauliers of course already had a presence in each port and they have been challenged by how to balance their resources between the peaks in each port.

From the port perspective we have focussed on accommodating all the changes while keeping our shipside and landside performance at the levels which our customers have come to expect from us. The facts and figures speak for themselves.


The facts and figures speak for the themselves

DP World Southampton handled the same inland volume in 2017 as we did in 2016.   We continued to perform and maintain our landside and shipside service levels; even reducing the average length of time a truck is on site to drop off and pick up a box.

DP World Southampton’s landside truck turnaround times actually decreased from average 36 minutes during 2016 to just below 33 minutes during 2017, an improvement of 7%.

After we added another 11 acres of space in August 2016, the utilisation of our ‘stack’, which is at the heart of our performance, actually decreased during 2017. This demonstrates that while Southampton has a relatively high utilisation, we remain focussed on continuous improvement to ensure our customers get the best turnaround times in the UK.


We have nothing to hide.

We have nothing to hide. DP World Southampton knows that what happens in the port can have a significant knock-on effect further along the supply chain. This is why we aim to be as transparent as possible with our customers and cargo owners, providing them with a clear view of their cargo as it moves through the terminal at all times.

Of course there are some days when we are impacted by the weather, in which case we inform our customers with an operational alert. In addition our landside performance figures are readily available on our website at, for all our customers, hauliers and supply chain partners to see. 

Live data on the website includes:

  • the average truck turnaround time for the last 60 minutes,
  • a live display of the current number of hauliers waiting to be serviced, and
  • the stack holding capacity, showing the number and type of boxes currently being handled at the terminal.


Don’t just take our word for it…

“We get exceptional support from the DP World Southampton (DPWS) team.  It is becoming more and more critical to produce products with the shortest possible lead-time. DPWS understands this and makes every effort to ensure time critical cargo makes its delivery on time.”

Alan Williams, Department Manager, Procurement and Logistics from Honda


“For Peacocks and the Edinburgh Woollen Mill group, the reliability of the rail service from Southampton is second to none. This, coupled with the online visibility we can get through Southampton’s website, has allowed Peacocks to reduce our inland distribution window.”

Andrew Perkins, Freight Co-ordinator, Peacocks 


“Having direct access to Southampton’s live terminal status and ‘Where’s my container?’ tools are crucial to help Oasis and Warehouse fashion brands manage our supply chain.”

Michelle Hunt, Head of Import/Exports, Oasis-Warehouse


“The reliability and your service levels are of great importance to Home Bargains. The drop and swap service DP World Southampton provides are key to the success of our business and something we value from DP World Southampton.”

John Taylor, Operations Manager, TJ Morris


All that is certain in this industry is that nothing is ever certain. But despite the raft of changes brought about by the alliance reshuffles in 2017, DP World Southampton has maintained – and in many cases – improved its performance. We’ll always strive to be better – and we can be better by collaborating with all in the supply chain, as we all bid to make UK trade faster, safer and more reliable.


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