Dover freight traffic update: April 12th

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After over seven days of severe freight traffic disruption in Kent, the good news is that things have abated over the weekend and the current delays are not as severe. However, with P&O still not operating on the Dover-Calais route, and with more traffic expected in the coming days, the disruption appears far from over.

Dover freight traffic update: April 12th
Photo: John Fielding / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 (illustrative image)

Here is our summary of the latest developments:

Latest traffic and crossing information

At the time of writing, 11.45 CET/10.45 GMT, Eurotunnel are running 5 departures per hour from Folkestone, with 6 in the opposite direction. Crossing times are described as fluid.

According to the last DFDS update, its ferry services are running without delay. The same is true of Irish Ferries.

Meanwhile, data from supply chain visibility provider Sixfold is estimating ferry crossing times on short strait routes of 3-5 depending on the route.

Lorry driver describes his experience of Kent disruption last week

Baz Scott, a lorry driver with considerable UK and EU trucking experience, got in contact with Trans.INFO yesterday to offer his observations as to what has caused some of the problems. He was keen to stress that the GVMS downtime was not to blame for the delays on his cross-Channel journey.

Instead, he believed that a lack of check in booths was to blame.

“The GVMS system is down, as we know, but instead of causing delays at check in, drivers weren’t being asked for references at all. It took me six hours to get from the port entrance to the lanes, and the entire delay was down to Irish Ferries operating ONE freight booth for check in,” said Mr Scott.

The trucker added:

“It didn’t help that the chap in the booth liked to have a little chat with the drivers, and I don’t exaggerate at all when I say that it was taking in the region of 10 mins per truck. Maybe this was somehow system related, but when Irish Ferries capacity to process drivers is limited to six per hour, it is surely clear that more booths should have been open.”

Finally, Mr Scott told Trans.INFO that all of this had resulted in him boarding a ferry that was far from full:

“The largest part of my delay had been in reaching the booths, so I asked the chap what the problem was. He advised that only THREE staff in total were scheduled to work that evening – himself, the operator of the car passenger booth, and another whose role or location were not elaborated on. When I arrived in the lanes, I was the only truck in over 30 (mostly empty) lanes. A photo is below. I arrived at the dock at approx. 20:00 Monday evening, and sailed on a partly empty ship at 05:00 Tuesday morning. In my mind, the failure is entirely that of Irish Ferries.”

Manston “may be put on standby”

In a nightmare-sounding scenario for lorry drivers who were caught up in the Christmas 2020 freight traffic logjam in Kent, local newspaper Kent Online reports that the “former Manston airport site in Thanet may be put on standby to hold lorries in the event of queues and delays over the Easter weekend get-away.”

However, as the article explains, it is important to point out that there has been no indication from the authorities that the traffic issues in the next few days will be severe enough to justify Manston’s use.

It is simply a fact that the owners of the former airport have said that it is ready to be used to deal with lorry traffic if required.

Operation Brock still active

Traffic on the key routes into the Channel Tunnel terminal and the Port of Dover has reduced compared to last week. However, it is still significant enough for Operation Brock to remain in place.

P&O plans to have Dover-Calais services running again on Thursday

According to Kent Live, P&O hope to have its Dover-Calais ferries back in operation on April 14th. As we reported yesterday, its Larne-Cairnryan service is now operational again.

RMT Union to continue to protest against P&O’s controversial dismissal of 800 staff; ports could be blocked

In a press release issued today, the RMT Union has said it will continue its protests against P&O.

“The protests this month in Dover and London are part of the campaign that is being built to fight back against the shocking assault on UK seafarer jobs and employment rights that the recent P&O sackings represent. The contempt that the company have for both staff and passengers alike is underlined by the Easter travel chaos at UK ports that their illegal actions have unleashed,” said RMT General Secretary Mick Lynch.

Mr Lynch added:

“We are gathering support from all political parties, passengers, commercial hauliers the wider trade union movement, and businesses across the supply chain in this continuing battle for justice. The union’s Fair Ferries campaign is fighting to ensure that the ruthless behaviour of P&O cannot happen again in the maritime industry or anywhere else.”

Speaking to BBC Scotland, RMT Regional organiser Gordon Martin offered more clarity on how the protests will look. He said that ports could blockaded on a regular basis:

“The RMT and our comrades in the trade union movement and beyond will be at Cairnryan and other ports on a regular basis, blockading the ports – nothing in, nothing out.”

He added:

“We will be after you, we will be coming to Cairnryan, Larne, and elsewhere and we will be targeting your supply chain. „Anybody dealing with P&O – I’ll send a clear message to them – whether it be fuel providers, food providers, whatever it may be. We will find out who you are and you will be part of our efforts to get proper legislation in place to protect workers.”


Photo: John Fielding / Flickr / CC BY 2.0 (illustrative image)

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