Hauliers brace for stricter implementation of post-transition controls on Irish and Channel seas

Fri 8 Jan 2021
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

lorry park

Hauliers were warned by French authorities to expect a much stricter implementation of post-transition border controls from Monday during a conference call between British industry bodies and the government yesterday. 

Sources told the FT that the French had “read the riot act” to port and ferry operators about the number of vehicles arriving unprepared, particularly in relation to new sanitary and phytosanitary (SPS) requirements.

There are new customs requirements for firms trading either between the UK and the EU or Great Britain and Northern Ireland after the transition period finished on New Year’s Eve.

Blue Monday?

Lorry traffic on the Dover-Calais crossing has been half its normal levels this week and higher traffic levels are expected from Monday.

Rod McKenzie, managing director of policy and public affairs at the Road Haulage Association, warned: “Unless operators are diligent and border-ready, including getting driver Covid tests, next week could be very challenging for the supply chain.”

Shane Brennan, the chief executive of the Cold Chain Federation, said that while authorities expected new customs rules to be implemented quickly, there were likely to be repeat infringements because they are so complicated.

On the Irish Sea crossing, a quarter of lorries were turning up “not border ready” this week, according to government figures seen by the FT.

Europe direct

The increased costs and likelihood of delays is leading more Irish importers and exporters to ramp up their use of direct shipping routes into Europe, thereby bypassing the UK landbridge, Euractive reports

Rosslare Europort, Ireland’s second busiest freight hub, has increased weekly services to or from mainland Europe from 10 to 28 following the end of the transition period.

Stena Line is doubling sailings to Cherbourg and DFDS has opened a new route to Dunkirk, sailing six times weekly in each direction.


Dublin Port has also increased services to continental Europe including the MV Celine and MV Laureline – both “Brexit-busting” Ro-Ro (Roll-on, Roll-off) ships according to Luxembourg owner CLdN. These ships connect Dublin with Zeebrugge and Rotterdam.

Although the new routes usually take longer, when delay and mandated driver rest periods are factored in, the difference is marginal.

Irish Exporters Association Simon McKeever said direct routing to Europe “provides more assurance”.

Busiest week in December 

The Channel Tunnel experienced its busiest ever seven-day period before the transition period finished back in mid-December.

At the time, importers were stockpiling goods ahead of Christmas and the end of the transition period.

Lorry traffic was up 8% to 131,000 vehicles over the December, with a peak of 40,000 in the second week of the month, according to the Times.