30-mile waits possible for trucks entering port in Calais after Brexit

 Fears of long lines of trucks waiting to enter the port of Calais following Brexit are worrying European countries. ( Photo: Shutterstock )

Fears of long lines of trucks waiting to enter the port of Calais following Brexit are worrying European countries. (Photo: Shutterstock)

Britain’s pending withdrawal from the European Union spells traffic doom for Calais, according to the Calais port’s boss, Jean Marc Puissesseau, The Guardian reports. Doom is foreseen as lines of vehicles getting into the ports could stretch 30 miles due to mandatory sanitary checks of food items and customs bottleneck situations by this part of the French ferry terminal.

If it evolves into a “permanent 20-mile” backup, it would mean worse congestion problems for both Calais and the UK port of Dover. Hence a plea from Puissesseau to the respective Prime Ministers, Michel Barnier of France and Theresa May of UK. And France would end up with the worse part of the congestion issues if compared to the Irish border problems that customs’ stakeholders have been expecting as earlier reported here.

According to Puissesseau, both PMs had to “be intelligent,” emphasizing that “at the moment, 70% of food imported comes from the EU. Even if that goes down to 50% after Brexit because of controls, it still needs to flow smoothly; people still need to eat.” People cannot eat if the expected congestion would stretch miles, leaving perishable goods at risk of spoilage.

Investment poured into expanding the Calais port was estimated at 700 million euros to accommodate bigger ferries through new docks. Puissesseau crunched the numbers and discovered margins getting slimmer based on the influx of goods anticipated at Calais. “We based our calculation on the growing population in the UK. We thought if there were more and more people, then their needs for food, cars, everything, increases and traffic will increase and we need to prepare for that.

Puissesseau mentioned how Brexit would take the trade-based relationship backwards. “The UK is part of the 21st Century. But this [Brexit] takes us back 100 years.” He did not hold back in mentioning how Brexit will turn Great Britain into “a third country,”, frightening Puissesseau at the mere thought of it. “There’s such a long history between the UK and EU.”

Apparently, Puissesseau’s concern is shared by another French policy-maker, former French health minister and president of the Hauts-de-France political region, Xavier Bertrand. Aware of how Ireland’s concerns were already looming above everyone’s heads, he described the situation. “This is a black scenario, but it is going to get darker and darker.”

Bertrand downplayed the problems Ireland is experiencing to demonstrate the complexity of issues surrounding the Calais part of the EU-based trade. “I know Ireland is going to be a real problem, but please remember the economic issues in Ireland are 10 times smaller than what is going to happen here.” He chose to appeal to the policymakers in Brussels.

At the moment, the ports’ capacity is estimated at 250 trucks minimum and 300 maximum per hour. This capacity is expected to increase based on truckload, leading to “15-mile [backups] building up over 10 hours.”

Stay up-to-date with the latest commentary and insights on FreightTech and the impact to the markets by subscribing.