Maersk, the world’s largest cargo company, has re-routed its vessels away from Felixstowe, a port in Suffolk, England, after they were waiting four to seven days to be offloaded.
The backlog is caused by a lack of heavy goods vehicle drivers to transport the imported items away from the port, through which a third (36 per cent) of UK freight passes through.
Other ports across the UK are also affected by bottlenecks which have prompted warnings for shoppers.
The UK truck drivers shortage last month led to a fuel crisis when companies rationed deliveries of petrol and diesel to forecourts and motorists had to queue for hours to fill their tanks.
A Maersk spokeswoman said the ships, each carrying thousands of containers, were being redirected to continental ports such as Rotterdam and Antwerp.
Cargo would then be loaded onto smaller vessels to dock at other British ports or at Felixstowe when space opens up.
Lars Mikael Jensen, head of global ocean network at Danish-owned Maersk, said the shortage of qualified drivers has slowed down the time it takes for containers to be emptied and picked up.
“We had to stop operations on a ship because there was nowhere to discharge the containers,” he said.