2M partners Maersk and MSC have chosen Liverpool instead of Felixstowe on their TA2/NEUATL2 transatlantic loop from the end of the year, in order to “provide stability to the service”.

The last sailing from Felixstowe will be by the 8,822-TEU MSC Athens in week 51, with the first sailing from Liverpool by the 6,478-TEU Maersk Sembawang planned for the following week.

“After careful evaluation of our network covering North Europe to/from North America, we will change our UK port call from Felixstowe to Liverpool,” said a customer advisory from Maersk.

The 2M said it would continue to blank its TA4/NEUATL4 transatlantic loop “until further notice”, but according to Alphaliner, the average weekly capacity on its three remaining strings has increased by 16.5 per cent to 19,800 TEU, with the deployment of larger ships to compensate.

The news of the lost transatlantic service is a further blow to the port of Felixstowe which, among UK container hubs, has come under the most pressure from the surge in import volumes.

Inherent issues with its problematic vehicle booking system have also been a factor in landside congestion and slow ship working. Carriers have diverted a number of calls to continental ports in the past month, leaving thousands of UK imports effectively stranded due to the absence of any prompt relay options.

Meanwhile, the situation at DP World Southampton has deteriorated, with the port seeing the cancellation at the weekend of the call by the NYK Deneb on THE Alliance’s transatlantic service and the omission of the CMA CGM Kerguelen.

“Congestion and delays at the port of Southampton have deteriorated recently and we are now witnessing similar issues to those at Felixstowe,” said Brentwood-based forwarder Westbound Logistics.

“In the past week, there have been weather closures due to fog, a shutdown in customs software, vessel delays and the emergence of the serious restitution issue. This has resulted in failed deliveries, further transport backlogs from the port and more price increases on urgently required deliveries,” said Westbound.

Moreover, the situation is set to get worse for UK importers as carriers consider their options for January, according to UK’s Loadstar.

It’s understood that the Ocean Alliance is drawing up plans to omit the Felixstowe call throughout January, with all UK cargo to be discharged at Zeebrugge and feedered back to “other less-congested ports”. However, the decision needed the final agreement of other partners, but the only real hurdle was the lack of available feeder tonnage.

The big fear for UK importers and exporters is that, even after the current pressures ease, the UK will be relegated to the status of a feeder trade.