BRITS should buy toys and presents “as normally” insisted ministers today as they try to calm fears of Christmas supply chaos.
Tory chairman Oliver Dowden said he’s “confident” people will be able to get festive goodies and there’s no need to rush out to the shops.
There are fears of Xmas shortages over a major bottleneck at Felixstowe
Tory party chairman Oliver Dowden
His remarks come after bottlenecks at the major port of Felixstowe prompted worries about a shortage of goods like electronics.
Ministers have been warned large cargo ships are being turned away an that could lead to gaps on the shelves in the run up to Christmas.
The major Suffolk port handles almost 40% of containers coming in and out of the UK, many from big manufacturing nations in the Far East.
Pressed on the problem today, Mr Dowden acknowledged it’s “a difficult, worrying time” for Brits who will be “concerned” by the reports.
But he insisted: “The situation is improving. I’m confident people will be able to get their toys for Christmas.
“I quite understand why people are concerned by these headlines but we are working through these challenges.”
Asked whether people need to get their presents early this year, he added: “It’s sensible to buy when you want.
“Some people buy very early for Christmas and others buy later. I would say just just buy as you do normally.”
It comes on top of fears that food favourites like turkey could also be in short supply over the festive period.
Mr Dowden also defended the Government’s scheme to recruit up to 5,000 lorry drivers from abroad to help ease the crisis.
So far only 300 have applied for temporary visas and just 27 have received them, according to official figures.
But the Tory chief said: “I’m quite sure that that number is going to increase over time.”
He added ministers have “streamlined” the process for training truckers in this country and brought in the military to help clear a testing backlog.
His remarks come amid reports that Felixstowe is in meltdown with huge lines of containers clogging up the dockside.
There are not enough lorry drivers to pick up and deliver the loads and the key port has become so congested its dockside is full.
Containers are now sitting for almost ten days before being collected for onward transport.
That’s double the time it normally takes, according to the British International Freight Association.
Hauliers believe collections in September were down 15 to 20 per cent, leaving up to 7,500 containers stacked at the UK’s busiest port.
One shipping boss told The Times: “I don’t want to sound like a Grinch but there are going to be gaps on shelves this Christmas.”
Most imported toys come through Felixstowe because they are non-perishable and it’s cheaper to ship them than fly them on a plane.
Electronics, bikes and homeware goods are also reportedly affected, raising fears that Christmas presents will be in short supply.
Lars Mikael Jensen, boss of shipping giant Maersk, warned retailers may need to prioritise what they ship to Britain in coming months due to the delays.
He said: “Felixstowe is among the top two or three worst-hit terminals [globally].
“We are having to deviate some of the bigger ships away from Felixstowe and relay some of the smaller ships for the cargo.”
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