Delays in deep-sea wine shipments don’t appear to be getting any less troublesome. Indeed there are many in the industry who would argue the situation is only getting worse, with no end in sight to the logjam.
Australian specialist The Vinorium, based in Kent, reports that its wines are now taking around four months to arrive.
“We ship a container every three to four weeks and our average bottle is around £35, so a container can be anywhere between a quarter and half a million [Australian] dollars on average,” says owner Stuart McCloskey. “The problem is that we are now waiting 16 weeks door to door and it’s getting worse.”
As reported in the May edition of The Wine Merchant, supply chain problems have been created by a number of factors, including staffing issues in ports, a global container shortage and customs complications in the UK.
Some importers in the UK believe these problems have been exacerbated by the incompetence of some shippers and the agents who book space on their vessels.
“We have a container of Standish wines leaving, which we chased today,” says McCloskey. “We’ve waited three weeks for the agent to make contact with our producers, so we’ve lost space on the vessel.
“When it gets to the UK there is on average another four-week delay.
“We had nine pallets out of a 20-pallet container, and we had to wait three weeks because five sample bottles didn’t have a VI-1 form, so they held up the entire shipment for three solid weeks. No one is doing the due diligence and the checks. Then it was delivered to the wrong bond.”
News of a trade deal between the UK and Australia was hailed as good news for Australian wine shippers, but McCloskey says the headline figure of 10p off a bottle will be dwarfed by rising costs.
“Our shipping has gone up about 18p per bottle per container of high-value stuff, so to gain 10p on the trade deal we are still having to deal with an 8p loss plus six weeks of financing stock that we haven’t got,” he says.
“It’s nice to have a deal, but the biggest problem is the shipping and that is a real hangover from the pandemic. Also, the lorry drivers in the UK are not around.”
He adds: “We’re seeing a massive backlog from Brexit because everyone is opening up their shops and restaurants, so UK merchants are piling in, wanting to ship more from the EU, and no one is clearing their backlog, so nothing is moving. You can’t get a container so it’s a bit of a nightmare.”
McCloskey also reports that a Californian consignment ordered last year is not now expected until August. “I had a really long chat with our freight forwarder this morning – and it’s clear that things are getting worse,” he says.
Doran Family Vineyards, the specialist South African wine producer owned by London-based Edwin Doran, is another wine business experiencing frustrating and costly delays.
Covid-related problems created a shortage in Cape Town in particular of stevedores and then shipping containers.
“There have been significant difficulties with London Gateway, the recipient port,” he says. “The ships take about 17 days to get from South Africa to London Gateway and because of various difficulties, and because they have laid people off, they are not able to unload the containers. Ships are not coming into London Gateway with containers from South Africa.”
Doran says the agents who book space on vessels leaving Cape Town on his behalf are facing delays and cancellations from shippers.
“The shipping companies are combining their loads and filling their ships and they don’t give a tuppenny-damn about the shipping agents,” he says. “All they want is ships that are full, so you end up getting consignments transferred. One of our consignments ended up being transferred four times.”