European heatwave threatens Britain’s supply of key chemicals

“A lot of players on the Rhine are getting quite nervous now,” said Jelle Vreeman, from Dutch maritime brokerage Riverlake.

“We see different major oil companies already trying to get barges for short-term time charter agreements, to be covered during the summer, because the lower the rainwater levels will get the more tricky it will be to get barges.”

The lapse of a dispensation allowing airlines to use commercial plans to fly cargo will wreak fresh havoc, adding to fresh supply chain concerns.

The UK is just weeks away from an “unnecessary cliff edge” that will also further inflate costs and leave short shelves of goods, a coalition of freight companies and airports have warned.

An estimated 25pc of London’s air cargo capacity will be lost unless action is taken, industry chiefs say.

Bosses from Evri, formerly known as Hermes, JD.com and the owner of Exeter and Bournemouth airports have written to Robert Courts, the aviation minister, urging him to reconsider his rejection of an extension of “carriage of cargo in passenger aircraft cabins”.

The letter reads: “Thanks to the current dispensations, during the last month alone the UK has seen wide body passenger aircraft carry out in excess of 500 cargo only flights.

“Over a single year, this equates to these repurposed aircraft delivering in the region of half a million tonnes of cargo capacity to and from Britain during one of the most challenging periods in recent history.

“That critical capacity – supporting both import supply chains and the export of UK manufactured goods – is now set to disappear.

“We are approaching an unnecessary cliff edge on 31 July 2022, and believe that if P2C operations are stopped, UK Plc will suffer another avoidable supply chain problem, further inflating costs and slowing down the movement of goods at a critical juncture.

It concludes: “We urge you to take stock of our industry’s concerns, and do everything in your power to allow a sensible extension beyond July 31, 2022.”

Mr Courts was approached for comment.

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