Executives at Dover and Calais ports have expressed confidence that freight will keep flowing at the start of next year – despite predictions of queues of up to 7,000 lorries in Kent.
From 1 January 2021, there will be new administrative requirements for businesses and hauliers moving goods between the UK and EU when the UK leaves the single market at the end of the ongoing transition period.
A recent trial of new border procedures run by French customs in November led to five mile queues on the M20, according to the Guardian.
The UK government’s worst-case scenario planning predicts queues of up to 7,000 lorries on Kent’s motorways due to new border controls when the UK ceases trading under EU rules.
Bosses at both Dover and Calais port told Lloyd’s Loading List that they were confident freight can continue to move smoothly between the UK and France despite the new border checks and controls.
“The thing about the Port of Dover, is that it is in constant motion all the time, and that traffic fluidity is really important,” said Doug Bannister, chief executive in Dover.
“The other side of it is that we’ve got such high-frequency, high-capacity ferry services that when there is disruption, we’ve got a proven track record to be able to clear it very quickly,” he added.
Procedures in place
Jean-Marc Puisesseau, president of the company running the port of Calais, was also confident, saying:
“Even if there are more controls than we expected, it will not block the traffic – it will be put in the special parking on the side, the flow of traffic will continue. I am not anxious.”
Puisesseau added that both Calais and Dover have implemented procedures to pull lorries aside if they do not have the proper paperwork in order to keep freight moving.
No parking in Kent
Despite confidence at the ports, freight industry bodies continue to express concern about the challenges faced by hauliers going into the new trade environment.
Logistics UK has this week hit out against new parking restrictions in seven Kent boroughs temporarily banning lorry drivers from taking rest periods longer than 45 minutes.
The restrictions are designed to avoid roads being clogged but Heidi Skinner, policy manager for the south at Logistics UK, told Lloyd’s Loading List that they took insufficient account of drivers’ welfare and were being introduced with only 12 days’ notice.
Stranraer lorry park
There will also be new administrative requirements for businesses moving goods between Great Britain and Northern Ireland under the Northern Ireland Protocol.
In anticipation of lorry queues as a result, Transport Scotland has earmarked an old military airfield near Stranraer as an emergency lorry park.
Castle Kelly is five miles from Stranraer and will have room for 240 HGVs, according to the Guardian.
There are fears that backlogs from 1 January could overwhelm the two main roads in the area, the single lane A77 and A75.