Drivers have been spending hours sitting in static traffic both in the Calais region and in Kent, where Operation Stack was recently put in place by the Kent Constabulary to cope with the huge volumes of traffic. Although this was recently suspended, the situation does not look to improve in the short term.
The delays have been the result of a combination of factors in France, including problems with migrants, protests by farmers and strikes by ferry workers. This weekend has seen demonstrations by farmers, who are protesting against the prices of meat and milk as well the continuation of nightly incursions of migrants numbering in their hundreds at the French end of the Channel Tunnel. It is estimated that there may be over 5000 migrants in the Calais region looking for opportunities to travel to the UK.
The resultant delays costs the freight industry in a number of ways, especially those that are transporting highly perishable goods and are subject to tight deadlines. The deputy Chief Executive of the FTA said that “It is simply not acceptable that industrial action in France can cause such chaos which is impacting on the British economy. Calais has to be made a strike free-zone so that cross-Channel traffic can start moving again”.
The situation doesn’t look like it is set to improve, with news today that the cross channel ferry provider DFDS Seaways has suspended its Dover-Calais ferry services due to strike action by the Syndicat Maritime Nord seamen’s union. This means that P&O is the only operator that has access to Calais which means we could once again see a fresh wave of congestion on both sides of the Channel. At the time of writing DFDS’s services remain suspended but it is hoped that a settlement is on the horizon as the company, striking employees and the French government start negotiations today.