Thursday, November 25, 2021

Lobby Group Stalks the Hallowed Halls of Westminster to Comment on Cross Channel Freight

Road Borne Supply Chain Under the Microscope at Westminster
Shipping News Feature

UK – EUROPE – Transport lobby group Logistics UK has certainly been making its presence known along the corridors of power of late, and fittingly much of the chat was about crossing the English Channel at a time when minds are focused on the horrors of migrants drowning in the freezing seas just this week.

With a macabre sense of timing the week saw the inaugural meeting of the Short Straits Summit in Westminster where Logistics UK was joined by members of the Houses of Commons and Lords, councillors, government officials and representatives from organisations including the Port of Dover, Getlink, P&O Ferries, Irish Ferries, DFDS, and the British Ports Association (BPA) to address how to maximise the efficiency of these crucial international links and discuss the issues which could impact ongoing trading between the UK and EU.

The summit was presented with data from Oxera and Ernst & Young which highlighted the role of the straits in the UK economy and their importance in supporting trade routes across the whole of the UK and EU and beyond. Chair of the event, Alex Veitch, Deputy Director, Public Policy at Logistics UK, commented:

“The short straits are a critical piece of national economic infrastructure, 59% of all UK-EU trade passes through these areas, so ensuring their resilience is key to facilitating and maximising international trade. However, there are issues that must be overcome. Most notably Logistics UK is pressing government to address the EU’s impending Entry Exit System (EES), which would require all non-EU citizens, including commercial vehicle drivers, to exit their vehicles at French border controls at Dover and Folkestone to undertake passport checks, in addition to compromising the safety of drivers, it would also delay just-in-time supply chains.

“At Logistics UK, we are so pleased our first Short Straits Summit was attended by so many crucial individuals and organisations in our sector. We look forward to continuing to work together to maximise the efficiency and resilience of Britain’s short straits in the months and years to come.”

Natalie Elphicke OBE, the MP for Dover and Deal, Sir Roger Gale, the MP for North Thanet, and Baroness Hamwee, Chair of the Justice and Home Affairs Select Committee all attended the summit along with Doug Bannister, Chief Executive, Port of Dover, who said:

“The Port of Dover, and the short straits as a whole, is an asset of strategic national importance. Not only of itself, but also in providing the resilience for the UK at times of global supply chain stress. Handling 33% of all UK trade with the EU, the market continues to choose Dover and the short straits for the speed, capacity, resilience and service frequency that is only achievable on the shortest crossing to Europe.

”The latest research, revealed in the Logistics UK summit, shows the increasingly significant positive economic contribution we make. However, to ensure this incredibly efficient passenger, trade and logistics artery is maximised for the future, it is essential that government addresses the looming threats to the traffic fluidity, such as the EU Entry Exit System (EES) and support for new border control infrastructure.”

The sentiments were echoed by John Keefe, Director of Public Affairs at Getlink, which bears responsibility for all crossings made below sea level, who added:

“With 26% of all trade between the UK and Europe going through the Channel Tunnel alone, the short straits are the most important travel and trading route between the UK and continental Europe for a very good reason, industry, retail and consumers all prefer to cross the Channel by the fastest and most flexible means. It is in the interests of the economy and of consumers that we continue to ensure these rapid and smooth flows of traffic across the Channel now and into the future.”

In addition to the Summit, Logistics UK again popped up at a meeting in the capital when Elizabeth de Jong, Director of Policy appeared before the Transport Select Committee’s inquiry into the road freight supply chain on the 24th November. After which she observed:

“The road freight supply chain is facing many challenges and opportunities, including the ongoing shortage of HGV drivers, a patchwork of local urban regulations, and the need to decarbonise operations efficiently. As I raised during the session today, the lack of available lorry parking facilities nationwide is a key contributor to the HGV driver shortage.

”Many commercial drivers are forced to take their rest periods in their vehicles at the side of the road or on industrial estates, with no access to hygiene facilities. This is preventing individuals, particularly women, who only make up 2% of HGV drivers, from remaining in, or wanting to join, the workforce. Logistics UK is urging the government to take immediate action to help enable improved facilities for drivers, without this, businesses will continue to struggle to recruit the workforce they need.

“Logistics UK is also pressing government to address the EU’s proposed Entry Exit System (EES), which would see the introduction of new customs checks at the borders of Dover and Folkestone. These new rules could cause delays to supply chain operations at borders, while compromising the safety of drivers, as they would be required to exit their vehicles to undertake the checks.”

Photo: Lines of confiscated rubber boats abandoned by, or seized from, their owners lie in a French harbour. The vessel that capsized drowning over 20 migrants in the Channel this week was purchased in Germany and the authorities are now looking at ways to track any such purchases.