Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Three Major Freight and Logistics Players Speak on Calais Truck Drivers vs Migrants Situation

UK Government Announces Measures but Are They Sufficient?
Shipping News Feature

FRANCE – UK – The situation in Calais, which we reported on recently, is still giving cause for concern with migrants, determined to steal a ride into Britain, often becoming violent toward freight truck drivers of all nationalities, presumably emboldened by the scandalous scenes witnessed at the port recently involving disgruntled ex-ferry workers, and the subsequent reaction of the authorities. Now the British government has fleshed out its proposals for the new lorry parking zone proposed earlier this month.

Keith Vaz MP, newly re-elected Chair of the Home Affairs Committee said the Mayor of Calais had commented to him that the situation last week was ‘like a civil war’. Now Home Secretary Theresa May MP has told the House that the new area would allow 230 trucks, equivalent to a two-and-a-half mile queue, to wait in a protected area away from the hordes of migrants and the news was warmly received by three of the most influential organisations involved in the industry.

After the announcement, Freight Transport Association’s (FTA) Deputy Chief Executive James Hookham reported to the Home Affairs Committee on the experiences of the Association’s members who have encountered intimidation, threats of violence, damage to vehicles and loads while waiting at the port to cross the Channel. Mr Hookham said:

“The FTA is delighted at today’s announcement of a new secure parking zone in Calais to protect drivers from the gangs of migrants who have been threatening UK drivers. This will allow them to queue and get out of their cabs without fear of intimidation. At long last something is being done in order to protect drivers, but we still need the French to step up their policing of the area and address the issue of the migrants camped out in Calais.

“Calais is a vital trade gateway, with £89 billion passing through the port every year. We cannot allow the migrants to put this in jeopardy, already millions of pounds have been lost in delays, damage to vehicles and spoiled cargoes.”

Another to appear at today’s Home Affairs Select Committee hearing into the current situation was Road Haulage Association (RHA) Chief Executive Richard Burnett, who presented the Association’s three core demands to protect lorry drivers in Calais who are running the gauntlet of aggressive migrant activity on a daily basis, something which he himself witnessed on a recent trip to France. As well as secure parking, the RHA want security levels at the Port of Calais to be improved to ensure the safe passage of HGVs, not just within the port perimeter but in the surrounding environs up to a distance of 5 kilometres and the involvement of the French military should the police prove incapable of controlling the situation.

News of the revised parking arrangements, which add 140 lorry spaces to existing provisions, were welcomed by the British International Freight Association (BIFA) which feels that there is some evidence that the UK Government is listening to the advice it is getting from the UK's logistics sector. BIFA's director general, Robert Keen commented:

"Only a month ago, we called for some additional action from the authorities in France and the UK to step up their protection of the routes across the Channel and fulfil their obligations to let trade move unhindered before serious damage is done to this strategic freight route. If the new secure zone helps to protect hauliers, it is great news for our members that are engaged in cross channel trade."

There is a general feeling amongst drivers we spoke to that the French forces deployed to act upon the recent criminal acts by the ex-ferry staff caught up in the SeaFrance/MyFerryLink debacle had been left to escalate, something which caused the extra pressure by migrants trying to cross the Channel which have left one man dead after he attempted to board a moving train whilst three more were injured in similar circumstances.

When services returned to normal following the recent unrest dozens of stowaways had to be located and removed from lorries caught up in the chaos by Border Agency staff.

Photo: A lone French motorcycle policeman finds himself under attack from thrown missiles whilst facing a crowd of two or three hundred migrants during the recent protests.