In our January article, Full Customs Controls 2022, we discussed the potential of ‘Long queues for Dover’ and ‘Why the delays ‘may occur.
“Since 1 January, I have queued every time in Dover,” Hradilik said. “From Calais it is better – there is only about two hours’ waiting.” This is a quote from February’s ‘It is soul-destroying’: lorry drivers face hours stuck in queues at Dover from the guardian.
However, with recent events, the delays have returned. So what are the issues that are causing problems at Dover in the run-up to Easter?
There are a number of P&O ferries still out of commission after the mass sacking of crew members by the company and there’s usually a surge at Easter with tourist traffic. The number of ferries out of service means reduced sailings from Dover at a peak time. This means a loss of approximately a third of Dover’s usual capacity for ferries.
UK customs officials saw an outage of the key HMRC system. Introduced as a post-Brexit IT system to apply rule changes that came in on 1st January this year.
The haulage industry suggests, the goods vehicle movement service (GVMS), which is a government trade portal, has been problematic for over a week and has added to longer queues on the A20 in Kent on the road to the port. HMRC have put in place a contingency by way of providing alternative documents for checks, although helpful, it has not alleviated delays and does not overcome the online process.
How many lorries and how long the wait in the Dover queues?
The Road Haulage Association said the queue extended to 20 miles with 2,000 lorries parked along a 23-mile stretch of the M20 as part of Operation Brock.
Duncan Buchanan, the policy director at the Road Haulage Association, “One member reported that they joined the queue at 8pm last night and this morning just before 9am they were still 30 miles from Dover,”
Many report of the lack of any meaningful facilities, which are essential, particularly when the wait to get to the port can be 25 hours. Having to wait in their cabs and no access to toilets or options to buy food and drink.
Rod McKenzie, policy lead at the RHA said “We cannot keep seeing this every time operational disruption occurs,”. “It is expensive and damaging for the economy and reputation of the UK. It is time to take decisive action and deal with this long-term problem.” The full article is available at ft.com ‘Dover traffic chaos damaging UK’s reputation, hauliers warn’.
Lorries in 25-hour queues that want to cross the Channel are each losing substantial sums in money and worse if the products are perishable and need to get to their European destination as swiftly as possible, it has been claimed by the British Meat Processors Association.
Graham Eardley, of Scottish meat haulier Eardley International, told the BBC: “Our products have a very short shelf life.” Priority in queues has been requested but according to the BBC, the Department of Transport has not provided any indication as to perishable items being prioritised to cross over to Europe.
Dover queues gone after Easter?
This particular problem has been caused by a combination of factors, bad weather, which is the most unpredictable, Easter holiday demand, which usually can be foreseen, HMRC IT systems outage which was unexpected but the contingency may not have been as efficient coming at the time it did and P&O Ferries having routes suspended, which was probably the unexpected surprise and all put together have created the congestion.
Dover has seen the worst since 2020 according to The Kent Resilience Forum (which manages emergency planning for the county). Toby Howe, the tactical lead for the forum, said:
“Operation Brock normally has the capacity for around 2,000 lorries, but it’s now holding up to 4,000.
“It shouldn’t be Kent that suffers every time we have these issues,”
“The summer is a worry. We need plans in place so we can restrict that traffic coming in.”