Some of the UK’s fastest growing value retailers have joined major port operator Peel Ports Group to call for a new UK port of entry strategy in a drive to shorten lead times, reduce costs and lower carbon emissions.

Major discount brands, including Home Bargains owner TJ Morris, called for shipping lines to introduce a new North/South, two-port UK strategy which would see shipping lines utilise both northern and southern ports for delivering deep-sea containerised cargo.

Historically, 90% of deep-sea containerised cargo enters the UK via southern ports, despite 60% of these goods being destined for the north. This leads to numerous challenges, including insufficient rail and HGV driver capacity, congested roads, cargo delays, ineffective landside logistics and added pollution caused by long, unnecessary road journeys.

The new approach was discussed during a British Retail Consortium webinar jointly hosted by Peel Ports Group, with the retail leaders claiming changing the current outdated model would enhance effectiveness of the country’s retail supply chain.

Speaking during the webinar, titled The 60/90 dilemma – why sluggish UK retail supply chains are overdue a rethink, the panel – which included TJ Morris Freight Manager John Cavanagh and Trinity Logistics Managing Director Amanda Unsworth – discussed how bringing the import of goods closer to their end destination would deliver a more efficient, robust, and sustainable retail supply chain.

The panel highlighted how deploying a two-port strategy would increase operational efficiency for retailers, allowing them to be more responsive to customer requests and capitalise on market trends. They argued a North/South strategy would reduce factors which result in delays, such as adverse weather conditions or unforeseen incidents on road and rail.

The panel urged shipping lines, the Government and port operators to work together to bring a two-port strategy to life.

Stephen Carr, Group Commercial Director at Peel Ports Group, said: “A North South, two-port UK strategy could address many of the country’s logistics challenges, transforming and modernising supply chains for retailers and other cargo owners.

“There’s a high level of support from the retail sector, driven by a need to better optimise the flow of seaborne cargo to enable much greater landside efficiencies.

“If we’re to see a supply chain which works with retailers, not against them, then it makes little sense to rely on the current status-quo – we need to utilise the ports of entry in the north, and across the whole country.”

Peel Ports, the UK’s second largest port operator, recently surveyed hundreds of UK retail leaders and cargo owners. 76% of those surveyed said they wanted to see goods imported closer to their end destination, while the research also revealed improving sustainability is a key ambition for retailers.

77% claimed that cutting carbon emissions is one of their top strategic priorities, and 79% believed the more efficient transportation of goods is required to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

John Cavanagh, Freight Manager at Home Bargains owner TJ Morris, said: “The benefits that a two-port strategy brings are lower transport costs, a reduction in carbon emissions, as well as providing us with quick and easy access to containers, which allows us to have more efficient processes.

“The current system is still in place for historical reasons, but our business model is all about keeping it simple, and a two-port strategy means we can react to demand, which gives us a real advantage.”

Amanda Unsworth, Managing Director, Trinity Logistics, said: “If you bring cargo destined for the north into southern ports it leaves you open to all sorts of issues. It just makes sense to bring goods in closer to the end user – it’s easier to manage and it reduces the risk of delays, as well making us better able to react to situations as they arise.

“We need senior leadership in our industry to commit to a two-port strategy; if we get that commitment, I’m certain it will take off and be successful, as we’ve proven in the past that it can be. We need to work together to get that message across.”

Stephen Carr concluded: “Retail industry leaders have spoken. They want a multi-port import strategy to release the pressure on the supply chain they so heavily depend on. Now is the time for our industry to work together to implement a two-port strategy without delay.”

Source: Peel Ports Group