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Dover dismisses Brexit ‘no deal’ alternative port idea

01/10/2018

Study indicates the cost of trying to divert traffic to other UK ports would be around £2.5bn − and the capacity does not exist, leading UK ro-ro port says

The Port of Dover has dismissed recommendations last month by the UK Department of Transport in the event of a ‘no deal’ Brexit that shippers should look to try to divert UK freight traffic through other ports as “a non-starter” because it would be unaffordable and the capacity does not exist.

Its statements follow a study by Oxera Consulting, understood to have been commissioned by the port, on the economic impact of diverting traffic away from Dover, with the cost of trying to divert traffic to other UK ports calculated to be around £2.5 billion.

Dover said the findings “highlighted again Britain’s ongoing reliance on Dover”, noting that Dover “handles more international lorries than all other UK ports combined: Up to 110 miles of freight traffic pass through the port every day, taking advantage of the 120 ferry sailings a day on the shortest sea crossing to Europe.”

The port said that with around half of the UK’s trade being with the European Union and with the just-in-time supply chains that flow between them keeping factories busy and shops full, “delivering a frictionless solution at Dover is vital”.

It claimed that message “has been heard loud and clear, with Britain’s reliance on frictionless trade at Dover firmly accepted by the government along with the need to preserve it”.

Nevertheless, as reported in Lloyd’s Loading List, as part of a series of guidance notices published on 24 September, the DfT had warned UK international road freight users of the need to develop contingency plans in case of a ‘no-deal’ Brexit, including seeking alternative routes to move goods, or using different vehicles or modes of transport if new permits needed are not available. 

Tim Reardon, head of EU Exit at the Port of Dover, today insisted that the government “recognises the need to keep traffic flowing through Dover, not just for the port but for everyone who relies on the goods in the lorries”. 

He added: “Trying to divert the traffic through other ports is a non-starter. The port capacity isn’t there, and a whole new fleet of ferries would be needed which simply doesn’t exist. 

“Successful future trade with Europe must be about delivering a realistic solution. That means a free-flowing Dover, whose speed, efficiency and capacity cannot be replicated without adding significant cost to the supply chain.”

Dover said it had also been “at the centre of contingency planning to minimise disruption in the event of a No-Deal Brexit.  The port has been working with government for months to deliver the plan, outlined in last October’s Customs Bill White Paper, for lorry traffic to be pre-notified to customs so that vehicles do not need to be held at the port.

“The first fruits of that work can be seen in the Technical Notices published by the government on 24 September, which stated that health controls on animal and plant products from the EU would be carried out remotely, so that vehicles would not need to stop at the port.”

Reardon added: “We are determined that our customers can continue to rely on Dover, so that their customers can keep factories busy, shops full and prices low for consumers across the UK.”

The port concluded: “Deal or no deal, Dover’s success will be Britain’s success – the solution is here.”

As reported in Lloyd’s Loading List, the UK’s Road Haulage Association (RHA) said it was “astounded” by the suggestion by government that hauliers should consider alternative modes of transport to move goods between the UK and the EU if no agreement was reached on Brexit, with chief executive, Richard Burnett remarking: “Goods are moved by road because of speed and efficiency − the UK relies on its incredibly efficient supply chain for consumers and businesses to get the things they need. This would very quickly put the manufacturing sector under severe pressure and the hauliers they rely on out of business.”

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