Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Freight Representatives and RoRo Cross Channel Ferry Groups Consider Dover Delays

Alternative to Operation Stack and Pressure on French Government Discussed
Shipping News Feature
UK – FRANCE – News of the latest murder in Rouen, the ninth such atrocity in the past few days, will undoubtedly only heighten the security which so affected the cross Channel traffic last weekend. The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has commented on the delays caused by a shortage of French security staff, just at the time when checks on vehicles and passengers were at their most stringent. Delays of up to 14 hours have induced the FTA to call for the newly agreed truck park at Stanford Kent to be opened immediately for tourist traffic bound for Dover. FTA Head of Policy South East England, Natalie Chapman said:

”The FTA believes that now is a good time to look at all possible scenarios and offers an opportunity to consider the feasibility of the site being made available for tourist traffic if we had a similar situation in the future. The site at Stanford will accommodate up to 3,600 lorries which is stages 1 and 2 of Operation Stack, but it could hold many more cars. However, we would need to ensure that tourist and freight traffic are separated. The peak days for tourist and freight traffic are different, with tourists heading to the continent across weekends and lorries leaving the UK mid-week.

”We do need to solve the root causes of congestion and delays at the Port. Given the recent terrorist attack in Nice, FTA fully understands the need for heightened security and additional checks, but it is unforgiveable that the French border force was so under-resourced. Dover is vital to the UK economy with up to £120 billion worth of trade going through the Port every year. There must be better processes put in place at the Port with extra personnel drafted in at peak times, otherwise there is a risk that Operation Stack may be introduced and we cannot have a repeat performance of last year.”

Highways England is due to be consulting on the details for the design and operation of the new site adjacent to the M20 to alleviate Operation Stack for lorry drivers in the coming weeks. The main objectives of the proposed lorry area has to be to keep the M20 running and Kent open for business. The Stanford site would provide basic welfare facilities for professional drivers, but if this can be translated to tourist traffic in a workable way, the FTA says it would help meet those objectives too.

P&O Ferries operates 20 vessels, the bulk of which are on cross Channel services, carrying 10 million passengers in 1.6 million private cars and 2 million freight units. Commenting on the situation last weekend Helen Deeble, Chief Executive, said:

”The scenes which we saw at the weekend at the port of Dover, with holidaymakers delayed for completely unacceptable lengths of time, must never be allowed to happen again. Increased security checks at the border are completely understandable but the French authorities must provide adequate numbers of staff to ensure that these checks can be processed quickly and efficiently. The failure to do so at the weekend was the primary cause of the delays.

"We at P&O Ferries did everything we could to keep passengers moving on the English Channel, providing extra sailings and staff on duty. We would nevertheless like to apologise to the passengers whose holidays were affected and assure them that we will be talking to the British and French authorities this week to ensure that there is no repetition of this disruption. The port at Dover is a vital link connecting our island to mainland Europe and the governments on both sides of the Channel must act now to protect the millions of people who rely on it."

Photo: Freight drivers and private motorists alike sat in huge queues whilst Police flew in water by helicopter in temperatures of 30 degrees Celsius.