The United Kingdom Government has agreed to a £100 ($128) million package with three ferry companies to alleviate congestion at the port of Dover in the event of a hard Brexit in March 2019.
Concerns over the movement of freight should a deal fail to be agreed, or if parliament votes down Prime Minister Theresa May’s deal in mid-January, could lead to severe congestion in the south-eastern corner of the UK, through which some 20% of freight to and from Britain passes.
Gert Jacobsen, the vice president of group communications at Danish ferry operator DFDS, told FreightWaves, “We have the ability to move ships around our extensive European-wide network to ensure that freight continues to move between Britain and Europe.”
Jacobsen said that the deal with the British government would see the existing services, into and out of Newcastle and Newhaven to Amsterdam and Dieppe respectively, extended to help relieve the expected pressure on the wider Dover region.
Department for Transport sources said that similar deals with Brittany Ferries and Seaborne Freight have been concluded with the DFDS agreement amounting to £47.3 million deal, Brittany Ferries agreed to a £46.6 million and Seaborne, which has yet to start its service between Ramsgate and Ostend, to a £13.8 million deal.
Brittany Ferries was unable to speak with FreightWaves, but Seaborne Director Glenn Dudley said, “We hoped to have our service operational by February, but that has been delayed though it will coincide with Brexit.”
Dudley went on to say that the company expects to handle some 200,000 trucks in its first year, initially with two ships capable of carrying between 90 and 100 trucks each. In addition, the company expects to have a further two ferries in place by the autumn in time for the seasonal increase in demand for freight space.
Seaborne will not reveal who will charter the two vessels to the Ferry operator, or the names of the two vessels that will provide the service.
Congestion at Dover Port and at the entrance to the Channel Tunnel, for trucks transported by rail, has seen the Government replace its original plan. Operation Stack, which saw lorries parked on the M20 motorway leading into the region in periods when the port or rail tunnel were blocked, has been replaced by the more extensive Operation Brock. The latest plan has three stages, with a contraflow system on the motorway with trucks moving at a slow pace into the port or tunnel area.
Stage two of Operation Brock will see lorries diverted to Manston, a disused World War II airfield in Kent, with a capacity for 4,000 lorries. Stage three will see the M26 motorway closed. In total the plan could see some 8,000 trucks awaiting transportation via the ferries or through the rail head. Live testing of Operation Brock is set to take place on 10 January with around 200 hauliers taking part in the practice run.