Christmas orders may not arrive on time as British ports feel the strain from coronavirus and Brexit stockpiling.

Haulage bosses warned that festive deliveries may not get to their destination early enough with chaos at the nation's biggest port "getting worse"

It is likely to lead to a "very challenging" festive season.

Pre-Brexit stockpiling, Covid-19 and a backlog of around 11,000 containers of PPE (personal protective equipment) at Felixstowe Port in Suffolk have been blamed for creating long delays and preventing retailers from receiving stock.

Rod McKenzie, managing director of policy at the Road Haulage Association, said the backlog, the impact of shops closing and increased demand for online orders had ramped up the pressure on what is already the busiest time of the year.

He warned that the knock-on effect means people across the UK and Ireland won't get their Christmas orders on time, particularly if shops remain closed past the proposed end of England's national lockdown on December 2.

Mr McKenzie said: "This is the busiest time of year for the haulage industry and the world of home delivery, even before Covid and lockdown.

"But it will be particularly crazy this year because of the pandemic and what's happening at Felixstowe.

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"If your items are coming on a shipping container from abroad and it is delayed, it is possible you are not going to have it for Christmas."

Mr McKenzie advised consumers to place their orders now if they want to ensure gifts arrive in time.

He added: "The situation is getting worse. Even if lockdown ends on December 2 and Felixstowe is cleared, we will still have a challenging Christmas."

Felixstowe receives around 3,000 shops each year.

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Around 17 shipping lines operate from there, travelling to over 700 ports around the world.

Last week, a Taiwanese ship was forced to turn back and dock in the city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands after being told a berthing slot wouldn't be available for 10 days.

Pressure on global supply lines due to coronavirus and a shortage of haulage lorries are thought to be contributing to delays.

It will have an impact on big retailers like supermarkets, all the way down to small businesses, Mr McKenzie said. He added the situation could get worse when the Brexit transition period passes at the end of 2020.

A statement from Felixstowe Port said: "We continue to work closely with our customers and other stakeholders to tackle the impact of current global chain pressures on the flow of goods through UK ports.

"Global supply chains remain under pressure but we have a plan to address the specific issues at Felixstowe."

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