Report on TNA Members' Felixstowe Port Visit January 2019

Report on TNA Members' Felixstowe Port Visit January 2019

  • Report on TNA Members' Felixstowe Port Visit January 2019


    Thursday 17th January 2019

    The Nut Association (TNA), in conjunction with RBF Cargocare, organized an educational visit for their members to the port of Felixstowe on 17th January.  The purpose of the visit was to have a tour of the port facilities and meet with port health to gain a better understanding of how containers are received and dealt with at the port. 

    The following member companies participated: American Peanut Council; Besana UK; Boast International; Buckle Shipping; C G Hacking; Humdinger Foods; Minerva Global; Petrow Food Group; RBF Cargocare; Sun Valley; The Roasting Company; Voicevale and Whitworths.

    Picture taken from Port of Felixstowe’s website

    Following a brief talk and video presentation (which can be viewed at the above website) by port staff at Tomline House, the group boarded a coach for a tour of the port facilities.


    The port is owned by Hutchinson Ports, who have 51 ports in 26 countries. In the UK Hutchinson owns the ports of Harwich, Thamesport and Felixstowe. When the port of Felixstowe upgraded their operating systems in 2018 they experienced a number of issues/problems which led to extensive delays in the handling, unloading and loading of vessels.  This was unfortunate and resulted in vessels docking elsewhere to unload.  Port personnel reported that these problems have now been overcome and the port is fully operational.  There are several on-going improvements to the port facilities, including improvements to handle the largest ocean vessels and the raising of crane heights to cater for higher loaded vessels.  8 semi-automated cranes will arrive later in 2019, the only non-automated element being that the loading onto/from lorries will be done by ‘drivers’ sitting in an office using remote cameras rather than operating the system from crane cabs.  When vessels are unloaded at Felixstowe, onward transit is either by road, rail or sea (ie unloaded to smaller vessels which then call at other UK ports).  Currently 66 freight trains a day leave the port, with 1 million containers going out by train in 2018.



    Following the port tour the group was driven to the office of Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority.

    Jon Beech from RBF Cargocare and Andrew Leech from the UK Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (DEFRA) gave a presentation on the possible impact to industry of the UK’s exit from the European Union (BREXIT).  Since nothing has been agreed at government level yet there are still more questions than answers, but DEFRA have been working on a number of scenarios with regard to food import legislation.  If the UK opts for a ‘hard’ BREXIT, the UK will be locked out of the EU TRACES system and will revert to a UK system, currently CHIEF but since that is 20 years old it is due to be replaced by CDS (based on the Dutch AGS customs system).  DEFRA is working to retain continuity and stability for the UK food industry but there is still a lack of clarity in most areas.

    Richard Jacobs, Port Health Manager and Martyn Jones, Technical Manager for foods not of animal origin were present from Suffolk Port Health.  Martyn gave a presentation on the work of Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority.  He reported that there is uncertainty as to how food regulations down the line will impact UK border controls.  It is anticipated that when the UK leaves the EU, the UK will not impose any additional checks on goods imported from the EU but it is thought that the EU may impose additional checks on exports from the UK to the EU, treating the UK as a 3rd country supplier.

    It was reported that while ports currently randomly select the containers to be checked/sampled and have the ability to override a selection as they see fit (for example if a container is selected for the same product and from the same exporter that has only recently been checked and passed), the EU will centralize this process later in 2019 and the ports will not have leeway to amend the selected loads. Within the UK, each port selects the container to be stopped, it is not centralised, nor is it planned to be after BREXIT.

    The group was then taken down to the facilities where the unloading and sampling of containers is undertaken.  A container of Chinese redskin peanuts had been unloaded and was checked and sampled in front of the group. 

    The first checks done are ID checks on the documents, seals and consignment codes.  Port staff record pictures of documents and the load.  These are uploaded immediately so that office staff can progress with the paperwork accordingly once the consignment has been tested.

    The physical check and sampling is then done.  Felixstowe port provides the equipment to facilitate the unloading, sampling and reloading of containers and this facility has push/pull equipment to enable easier reloading.  Unlike at other ports APC has visited, Felixstowe routinely covers the hole made by the sampling probe with an aluminium backed sticker (see photo below).  Each port varies on how it does the sampling, but at Felixstowe they took all 5 samples from each tote from the same side.  When asked why they didn’t probe each side of the tote, the response was that stickers can get caught on the sides of the containers when being put back in so it is safer to test just on one side and load them back in ensuring the stickers are not facing the sides of the container, but face front or back.

    The latest changes to EU food and feed legislation as regards increased levels of official controls can be found here: