The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has warned that increasing numbers of freight carriers are saying they will no longer make journeys to Britain because of the violence involving groups of migrants in parts of the French port of Calais.

Currently around three-quarters of all road freight to and from Britain passes through Dover and Calais, the French town that has become a magnet for people trying to reach British shores illegally and a hub for gang-controlled smuggling operations.  Each day approximately 9000 lorries pass through the ports.

Although driver shortage has not yet developed into an acute problem, more and more overseas haulage companies are telling the FTA that they are no longer willing to risk damage to vehicles caused by migrants and that drivers are concerned about their personal safety.  Meanwhile, UK truck drivers face fines of up to £2000 per migrant if stowaways are found in their vehicles.  UK drivers paid £4.2m in fines in 2014, compared with just £2.5m in 2009, according to Freedom of Information Act figures.

Vehicle checks at ferry terminals and Eurotunnel have increased, but this slows the processing of vehicles and has a knock-on effect on business supply chains: for example, the delay of a vehicle component from a supplier in Italy could suspend operations at a car factory in the UK.

Supermarkets cannot take any risks on food contamination, so if a stowaway has jumped aboard a refrigerated fruit container the produce may never reach the shelves.  As a result, the FTA believes there will be shortages of some lines of food and that the price of imported goods will rise sharply.

UK ferry operators and Eurotunnel have already taken steps to provide additional secure parking areas for lorries.  However, with the volume of trade expanding as the economic outlook improves, (forecasts suggest a 30% increase in traffic over the next five years), greater numbers of HGVs are heading for the UK, causing bottlenecks.

A destination for migrants since the end of the Kosovo war in 1999, Calais’ infrastructure and security capacity has come under intense pressure as hundreds of people from north and east Africa, the Middle East and further afield make their way to the port.

In April, members of the UK House of Commons home affairs select committee criticised the actions of the French Border Police.  According to MPs, travellers and hauliers are subject to cost and inconvenience while illegals caught trying to make the crossing are ‘simply released back into the French countryside’.

The committee also insisted that security arrangements must not cause traffic to come to a standstill, because stationary vehicles are seen as easier targets by migrants attempting a crossing.

Unfortunately, there is no ready solution to the Calais migrant situation.  But in the meantime a business wishing to streamline those parts of the supply chain it can control has the option of turning to a specialist logistics provider such as RT Page.  To find out more, contact us on 01903 736300 or info@rtpage.co.uk.

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