Monday, December 21, 2020

Fortress Britain - Travel Bans Imposed on Freight Vehicles and Passengers

Countries Queue Up to Close Borders as New Strain Virus Announced
Shipping News Feature

UK – So far twenty one countries have imposed travel restrictions from the UK, with varying conditions, due to the latest, and more virulent strain of Covid-19. With hospital admissions in the country rising from 24% to over 50% in the past few days the embargo has meant queues of export trailers forming on the approach to ports, particularly to the Kent ports, including Dover.

The ban includes all travel including passengers but there are anomalies, when contacted Stena Line confirmed their freight services were operating normally as they only serve France direct from Ireland, with Dutch routes unaffected. Conversely Eurotunnel services to France have all been suspended for 48 hours from 22:00 GMT on Sunday 20 December.

Real confusion may arise of course if a driver ships to the Benelux, then intends to backload via France, making an uncertain situation even more complex. Many will worry that the confusion in Kent will merely be a foretaste of what is to come should the Brexit talks fail, which seems to be an ever more likely outcome despite talk of being ‘98% there’.

Passenger flights from the UK to Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Italy, Ireland, the Netherlands, Kuwait, Turkey, Morocco, El Salvador, Romania, Iran, Israel, El Salvador, Colombia and Saudi Arabia are all affected to varying degrees and travellers should check before attempting to leave.

Meanwhile the main concern is for the drivers of those accompanied trailers which have been parked up, many miles from sustenance or toilet facilities. Talk is that Manston Aerodrome will be used as an overflow trailer park for vehicles headed to Dover but the speed of the ban coming in leaves serious worries for those stranded.

Import vehicles are unaffected and there are currently no real concerns over food supplies but, truck drivers may be reluctant to come to the UK for fear of being unable to return home. Speaking about the closure of French borders to freight for 48 hours, Alex Veitch, General Manager at Logistics UK said:

“Logistics UK is aware that accompanied freight from the UK is not being allowed access to France for 48 hours; Logistics UK is very concerned about the welfare of drivers travelling from the UK to France at this time and is urgently seeking more information for our members. Driver health and safety is our key concern, and it is essential that they continue to be recognised as key workers and given access to testing, if necessary, as a priority to ensure the continued movement of goods to and from France.

“Shoppers should not panic buy, retailers will be making every effort to ensure there is stock within the system, including fresh produce, and it is important that we remember that inbound traffic still has access to the UK. We are maintaining close contact with UK government to ensure that supplies of fresh produce are available throughout Christmas and the New Year.

“Our advice to members is to check with ports before travelling, and keep in close contact with drivers to ensure their welfare is maintained.”

Photo: View from a bridge. Queuing along the Dover approach roads is not a new phenomenon.