Construction suppliers raise alarm over port delays

7 December 2020

Port delays are hitting the construction sector with a trade body claiming it is taking up to four weeks to unload containers.

The Builders Merchants Federation (BMF) said it was concerned over the availability of tools, plumbing items, and natural stone.

It has raised its concerns with the UK government and questioned the readiness of ports as the end of the Brexit transition period approaches.

John Newcomb, chief executive of the BMF and co-chair of the Construction Leadership Council’s Brexit Movement of Building Products and Materials Group, said: “There is a concern over the availability of products imported in containers, mainly from the Far East, such as ironmongery, plumbing items, tools and natural stone.

“There appears to be an increasing issue getting these products through ports, with some ships being stopped from landing and sent back to Rotterdam. Rather than taking a maximum of one week to unload, it is taking up to four weeks.”

The BMF's members manufacture 76% of construction products in the UK and represent £38bn of the construction supply chain.

This month’s IHS Markit/CIPS UK Construction Purchasing Managers’ Index also drew attention to “supply chain challenges” as survey respondents reported transport delays and stock shortages, as well as longer supplier lead times due to heightened demand.

This follows border disruptions caused by a “perfect storm” from Brexit and the Covid pandemic, resulting in container rates increasing by up to 300%. 

The retail sector has also experienced disruption with supplies threatened in the run-up to Christmas.

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