Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Freight Ferries See Rise in Cross Channel Traffic While Road Haulage Lobby Scorns New Migrant Camp

RoRo Firm Breaks Record Whilst Row Over Calais Transients Ferments
Shipping News Feature
UK – FRANCE – Having announced its millionth freight unit passing through Tilbury in November, plus last week revealing an 11% year on year increase on the number of HGVs shipping on the company’s Hull – Rotterdam route since 2014, now P&O Ferries has revealed that, despite all the strife the French port has witnessed in the period, 2015 saw the RoRo company carry more freight between Dover and Calais than in any previous year in its modern history. Meanwhile comments from a charity spokesperson has added flames to the migrant crisis fire with road haulage and transport stakeholders annoyed both by the current situation and a proposed new camp for transients.

Firstly those P&O figures, during the year the ferry company saw its six vessels which cross the Channel carry 1,340,317 units of freight, a 22% jump on the previous year. The figures were doubtless boosted somewhat by delays on the Eurotunnel service caused by the constant problem of migrants attempting to smuggle themselves into Britain, something not unique to the undersea crossing however. Janette Bell, Commercial Director of P&O Ferries, said:

"The cross-Channel ferry business is a vital strategic link in the transport infrastructure of north-western Europe and these numbers illustrate that hundreds of thousands of firms rely on our services to import and export goods. We expect demand for cross-Channel transport to increase, driven by a rising population and the strength of the British economy. The vast majority of our freight customers are businesses transporting goods from continental Europe to Britain. During a period when the media has been continuously writing about delays at the Channel tunnel, we have made it a priority to minimize dwell times for our customers by keeping a sixth ship in service on the route and maintaining a schedule of 58 sailings a day."

Meanwhile the situation in Calais and surrounds has remained headline news for those directly affected by the crisis. The Road Haulage Association (RHA) waived away the speech made by Claire Moseley, founder of the Care4Calais charity with RHA chief executive Richard Burnett calling her ‘at best naïve’. Ms Moseley had her own ‘let them eat cake’ moment when she apparently said that ‘if truck drivers have to change their job it’s not the end of the world’, simultaneously revealing that she perhaps believes only certain people deserve her care, and an almost inconceivable lack of knowledge of how logistics works and keeps her and her chosen venture’s life ticking over.

The more serious discussion regarding the horrendous plights of migrants however now circles around the future of any holding camp or camps. With both truckers’ organisations, and the Mayor of Calais, demanding the government send in a military presence in the light of continuing violence, the proposal to build a facility at or near the Port of Dunkirk has met with at best a cool reception. The RHA points out that situating a camp 30 miles from Calais, yet adjacent to another ferry port, might well double the problem rather than solving it. Richard Burnett observed:

“It has become glaringly obvious that the Calais camp is in the wrong place and it must be moved further inland. As it stands at the moment, it represents little more than a departure lounge for migrants whose only aim in life is to reach the UK, whatever the cost to others. Until such time as this common-sense, long-term solution prevails, we stand firm behind our call to see the French military deployed as a matter of extreme urgency.”

Both the RHA and the crime commissioner for Surrey, Kevin Hurley have commented that the migrant camp at Calais is ‘unpoliced’. Despite the fact that the £1+ million bill for constructing the Dunkirk camp will be picked up by the French government the security to migrant ratio in Calais currently stands at 18 to 1. If and when the Dunkirk camp is constructed the concern is whether staff will be redeployed to the new site thus weakening Calais security even more.

The view of the vast majority of logistics stakeholders is that the new camp, together with the old ‘Jungle’ camp at Calais, should be moved further inland. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) pointed out that the size of the existing camp has swelled from 600 to 6,000 migrants in 12 months and the number of drivers being fined for carrying stowaways has more than tripled in three years. Drivers can be personally fined up to £2,000 for each illegal immigrant found on board and FTA members say it’s impossible to prevent their trucks being attacked because of the huge numbers of migrants and the personal safety issues involved. Natalie Chapman, FTA’s Head of Policy for London and the South East, said:

“Planning a new camp near another port is madness, this is a critical trade route where our members will continue to be affected. There is undoubtedly a humanitarian crisis here and genuine refugees should be treated with respect and have their cases properly processed. However, the Calais camp is far too close to the road and the port, putting our members’ livelihoods, and indeed their lives, at risk.”