Import Services to Operate Common User Facility at London Gateway
A unique partnership between DP World London Gateway and Import Services Ltd will ensure all shippers large or small benefit from low-cost supply chain opportunities at London Gateway’s new Common User Facility.
Following a rigorous selection process, DP World has appointed Import Services to act on its behalf as operator and manager at the Common User Facility (CUF) now being built at London Gateway Logistics Park.
The steelwork for the first phase of the 386,000 square foot multipurpose cargo handling centre is nearly complete and the development is on target to open in Q2 2015.
Peter Ward, DP World London Gateway’s Head of Supply Chain, said: “We are delighted to be working with Import Services. The company has demonstrated a common vision and real understanding of our mission as the UK’s new deep-water national hub port and logistics park.
“We found the team to be tuned into our strategy and, combined with their expertise in the field of port-centric logistics, they put forward a very compelling plan.”
Southampton based Import Services will initially take on a significant portion of the new development and provide a menu of logistics services and activities on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ basis. Services will range from basic devanning to cross-docking, storage and value-added activities such as pick-and-pack, labelling, pre-retail and distribution.
Ward added: “Even the larger operators have recognised the benefits of using the CUF because it enables them to further optimise their supply chain by back-loading into their existing networks.”
London Gateway Logistics Park, located on the doorstep of Europe’s largest consumer market enables exporters and importers to reduce costs, carbon emissions and increase efficiency and reliability.
Simon Moore, CEO DP World London Gateway, said, “This is a big step forward for the development of London Gateway Logistics Park. We have now got all the pieces coming together with new roads infrastructure in the logistics park, competitive rail services in the port, and road haulage operators also on site with plans to grow.
“We look forward to Import Services, who have a proven track record in the UK, providing excellent services to our customers.”
As demand for logistics and distribution facilities closer to market increases, coupled with a greater need for flexibility and agility in supply chain networks, the shared-user model on offer at London Gateway will provide a ‘best-fit’ solution.
DP World London Gateway and Import Services have been working together to develop the fit-out of the CUF building and establish the day-to-day processes such as internal shunting of containers from the port’s quayside to the logistics park.
In a video interview announcing the development, Mike Thomas, Client Services Director, Import Services, said, “This is an exciting new venture for Import Services and we are delighted to be working in partnership with DP World London Gateway. Operating the Common User Facility will enable Import Services to launch a twin port strategy, replicating our port-centric logistics model in Southampton to facilitate growth for both our existing and new clients at DP World London Gateway.”
Market and port-centric logistics are a key part of the future of retail distribution, where products are allocated to orders or sold in transit en-route to the port. Import Services’ facilities are located adjacent to container terminals, ready to process orders, pre-retail and distribute direct to consumers in the most efficient way across the UK and continental Europe.
Driver shortages: Why the industry needs to be worried
While driver shortages are a global problem, with a recent survey from the International Road Transport Union suggesting that driver shortages are expected to increase by 25% year-on-year across its 23 member countries, the issue has very much made itself felt for UK businesses in recent weeks.
A perfect storm of factors, which many within the industry have been wary of, and warning about, for months, have led to a situation wherein businesses are suddenly facing significant difficulties around transporting goods to shelves on time, as well as inflated operating costs for doing so.
What’s more, the public may also see price rises as a result due to demand outmatching supply for certain product lines, which in turn brings with it the risk of customer dissatisfaction and a hit to brand and stakeholder reputation. Given that this price inflation has been speculated to hit in October, when the extended grace period on Brexit customs checks comes to an end, the worst may be yet to come.
"Steps must be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for younger drivers, which will require a joint effort from government, industry bodies, and the sector as a whole"
That said, we have already been hearing reports of service interruption due to lack of driver availability, meaning that volumes aren’t being transported, or delivered, to required schedules and lead times. A real-world example of this occurred on the weekend of 4-6 June with convenience retailer Nisa, with deliveries to Nisa outlets across the UK affected by driver shortages to its logistics provider DHL.
But where has this skills shortage stemmed from?
Supply is the primary issue. Specifically, the number of available EU drivers has decreased by up to 15,000 drivers due to Brexit alone, and this has been further exacerbated by drivers returning to their home country during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as changes to foreign exchange rates making UK a less desirable place to live and work. This, alongside the recent need to manage IR35 tax changes, has also led to significant inflation in driver and transport costs.
COVID-19 complications have also meant that there have been no HGV driver tests over the past year, meaning the expected 6,000-7,000 new drivers over the past year have not appeared. With the return of the hospitality sector we understand that this is a significant challenge with, for instance, order delivery lead times being extended.
It is little surprise, therefore, that the Road Haulage Association (RHA) earlier this month became the latest in a long line of industry spokespeople to write to the government about the driver shortage for trucks. The letter echoed the view held by much of the industry, that the cause of this issue is both multi-faceted and, at least in some aspects, long-standing.
So, many in the industry are in agreement as to the driving factors behind this crisis. But what can be done?
Simply enough, outside of businesses completely reorganising their supply chain network, external support is needed. In the short-term, the government should consider providing the industry with financial aid, and this can also be supported more widely with legislative change.
Specifically, immigration policy could be updated to place drivers on the shortage occupations list, which would go some way towards easing the burden created by foreign drivers returning to their home countries. Looking elsewhere, government should also look for ways to increase the availability of HGV driver tests after the blockage created by the coronavirus lockdowns.
Looking more long-term, steps must be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for younger drivers, which will require a joint effort from government, industry bodies, and the sector as a whole. As it stands, multiple sources suggest that the average age of truck drivers in the UK is 48, with only one in every hundred drivers under the age of 25. We must therefore do more to increase the talent pipeline coming into the industry if we are to offset more significant skills shortages further down the line.
On the back of a turbulent year for the supply chain industry, it has become increasingly clear that the long-foretold shortage of drivers is now having a tangible and, in places, crippling effect on supply chains.
Drivers, and the wider supply chain industry, have rightly been recognised for the seismic role they played in keeping the nation moving and fed over the past year under unprecedented strain. If this level of service is to continue, we must now see Government answer calls to provide the support the sector needs, and work hand-in-hand with the industry to find a solution. If we do not see concrete action to this effect soon, we are likely to be in for a turbulent few months.
Rob Wright is executive director at SCALA, a leading provider of management services for the supply chain and logistics sector