When importing goods to the UK using our services, you’ll never need to know which port we use for your particular shipment as we’ll give you a full rate on the best service for your shipment delivered to your final delivery location. However, you may be curious and want to know which port in the UK your goods could be shipped to. One of the first questions you may ask when you first look into sea freight is “which port is closest to me?”
If your supplier asks you what port is nearest to you and offers to deliver your goods there for you, be wary. These terms can often be too good to be true and will end up with you paying out extortionate hidden fees when your goods reach the UK. To learn more about this process, read our post warning of the dangers of CIF shipping and allowing your supplier to ship your goods for you.
When small businesses are looking to import goods to the UK there are five main ports through which we could route a shipment on board a cargo ship. Although Felixstowe is the most likely destination for our shipments, here’s an overview of other ports in the UK, when we’d use them and what kind of shipments we’d route through each.
The Port of Felixstowe
Situated in Suffolk, the Port of Felixstowe is Britain’s biggest and busiest container port and one of the largest in Europe. If you’re importing less than a container (LCL) shipment from Asia then this is nearly always where we’ll have it sent to. Regardless of where in the UK your goods are to be delivered (or business is based), Felixstowe’s East Midlands location makes it well located to distribute your goods to wherever you need them.
The port handles the equivalent of 3.5 million twenty-foot containers each year and provides some of the deepest water close to the open sea of any European port. Felixstowe runs services to and from 365 ports around the world.
Felixstowe is the port most commonly used and will typically be where your goods are shipped to.
The Port of Southampton
If your business (whether eBay store/homeseller or SME) is based in the south of England and importing full container loads then Southampton is a good option. The saving in haulage costs that can be gained by routing containers through the Hampshire based port often makes Southampton the best place for us to send your container. We can also use it for less than container loads if there’s a good service from your supplier’s nearest port in Asia.
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The Port of Southampton is home to the UK’s second largest container terminal – and they handle more than 1.5 million teus per year. Southampton’s dredging programme means that 15.5m draft vessels, which are the largest ships currently in rotation, can access the port most days of the year.
For reference, this is a map with the locations of the major ports in the UK. You can use this to see which port is closest to you.
The Port of Tilbury
Located on the banks of the River Thames in Essex, we often utilise the port of Tilbury to import goods from the USA, Australia and the Middle East.
The Port of Tilbury runs the London Container Terminal, which is Europe’s largest terminal for refrigerated containers. It has 1,400 reefer plugs on terminal and access to a 25,000 pallet space cold store facility operated by NFT.
The Port of Tilbury now has some stiff competition from the new London Gateway which is set to become one of Britain’s main ports and is only a few miles along the banks of the Thames.
The Port of Grangemouth
Grangemouth is Scotland’s largest container port and lies midway between Glasgow and Edinburgh – in the heart of Scotland’s industrial sector. The port is Scotland’s main container terminal and handles approximately 150,000 containers a year.
As Grangemouth is served by the M9, it has links to the national motorway network and the railway.
Interestingly, The Port of Grangemouth is the only port in the UK that exports more than it imports.
Using this port may add a few days to the transit time but if you’re importing full containers to Scotland, its location can save a couple of hundred pounds on the haulage of a full container otherwise being driven up from Felixstowe – ideal if you are just starting out and need to keep an eye on your budget.
London Gateway Port
London Gateway is the newest port and, as the name implies, it is in London on the River Thames. The advantages to having a port located on the edge of the capital city are massive – it can completely streamline your supply chain.
London Gateway actually has the largest logistics park in Europe! They’re known for handling high volumes of time-sensitive and perishable goods because of their supremely quick ship-to-shop times.
If you do live in or near the city, this port lands your goods almost directly at your feet, which can save you huge haulage costs. London Gateway’s base is closer to 78% of the UK market compared to the country’s current largest port – including the Midlands and the North West. In fact, it’s only a 10 minute drive away from the M25!
There are other ports that can be used (such as Liverpool, which is set for expansion in the coming years) but they will not have vessels shipped routinely from major ports in Asia directly to them. This can mean extra costs and longer transit times to get your goods routed there.
Be careful if your supplier intends to send your goods to the UK but be extra wary if they agree to sending them anywhere other than Felixstowe, Southampton or London. If in doubt, just give us a call and we’ll advise further wherever possible.
To find out more about the port we’d use for your shipment contact us by phone on 020 3384 0498, or complete a Quick Quote enquiry form. You can also use the Live Chat feature to speak to a member of our team right now.