Truck chaos at Calais and French Eurotunnel

Truck chaos at Calais and French Eurotunnel terminal

Stuart Todd | Thursday, 07 March 2019

Delays of up to six hours to cross-Channel road freight vehicles continuing as customs officers ‘simulate’ the working conditions they expect in the event of a ‘hard Brexit’ later this month

Road freight firms operating from mainland Europe to the UK via the port of Calais and Eurotunnel are likely to face further disruption today due to sporadic, work-to-rule industrial action by French customs officers that started earlier this week and which has led to severe traffic congestion.

This has seen trucks routinely stopped for checks as protesters seek to ‘simulate’ what they claim will be the working conditions they will be subjected to in the event of a hard Brexit taking place at the end of this month.

Yesterday, video footage on French TV showed long queues of HGVs backed up along the A16 motorway leading to the port of Calais and the entrance to the Channel Tunnel. According to one local media report, the regional prefect is advising truck drivers heading to the UK to postpone their journey or go via Belgium.

Contacted by Lloyd’s Loading List earlier today, the Calais port authority said that customs officials supporting the action had “eased up” on the truck checks. “Traffic is very heavy but it is getting through,” the spokesperson for the port added.

Meanwhile, in its latest service update, Eurotunnel is warning customers of waiting times of up to six hours before checking in for the freight shuttle service.

Commenting on the disruption of the past few days, Eurotunnel spokesman John Keefe, said: “The impact has varied through the day, but it means that queues have formed in front of customs controls. We continue to run a full service of up to six departures per hour, but the load factors during the day are affected depending on the rate of flow through the French customs controls.”

He added: “We don’t think this (situation) is representative of post-Brexit flows as there are new facilities being built to provide greater capacity.”

Earlier today in a tweet to customers, P&O Ferries Freight said that sailings on its Calais-Dover route were on time but did highlight that there were  “major queues at check points”.  

Jason Breakwell, commercial director at European road freight specialist Wallenborn Transports, told Lloyd’s Loading List yesterday evening: “We have not changed our operations until now and we have contingency plans to reroute if necessary. The industrial action is adding up to six hours to journey times to the UK, but using other routes will not be quicker because other ferries are less frequent and have longer sailing times. 

“If the situation worsens, we will reassess and initiate contingency plans. We are frequent users of the alternative ferry routes, for example when driving from or to central and northern UK, carrying certain types of dangerous goods, or transporting out-sized cargo.”

Breakwell said he believed the head of French customs “was right when he said this has nothing to do with Brexit, as there will be no additional customs checks on UK bound trucks after Brexit”.