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How we can keep Britain moving

Credit: Port of Dover

Port of Dover

Port of Dover

4 min read Partner content

As we face a range of unprecedented challenges, now is a crucial time to invest in Dover.

Come Brexit, come COVID, the trucks just keep on coming to the UK’s busiest international roll-on roll-off ferry port.

Handling £122 billion of trade or 17% of the UK’s trade in goods, up to 10,000 lorries pass through Dover each day, moving goods that the nation cannot live without.

It’s made possible by Dover’s geographic location and the capacity, service frequency, short crossing time and operational efficiency this delivers.  Nowhere else achieves 120 ferry movements in a day, with ferries berthing, discharging, reloading, and sailing again within 45 minutes.

Dover is the closest UK port to mainland Europe, a critical part of the trade superhighway connecting the nation to its largest and nearest trading partner, and still the quickest route to get road-hauled goods there from Ireland.

Dover attracted most attention during Brexit because any risk to its continued smooth operation would be catastrophic for business and UK supply chains.  The traffic simply had to keep flowing and it did.

The Port has played a vital role throughout the coronavirus crisis, ensuring it remains fully operational so that the essential goods that Britain has needed to sustain itself during the pandemic, such as food, medicine and critical components, have kept on moving.  They have.

Repeatedly, the Port of Dover has demonstrated exceptional resilience, showing why the ‘Short Straits’ system can sustain the UK into the future.  The market knows this and continues to be committed to this vital route.

With new ferries and new charter agreements being announced between existing operators to maximise choice and flexibility, and a new ferry operator joining the route this year, Dover remains the market choice for just-in-time supply chains and the international haulage industry that serves the whole of the UK as well as Ireland.

The Port has been seeking Government support as it faces serious post Brexit challenges. 

The Port needs new border infrastructure, identified back in 2018, as a result of Britain leaving the EU and consequent new vehicle processing rules.   This new infrastructure will double the capacity of border authority booths and mitigate the increased transaction times caused by lengthier and more intrusive checks that have taken place since Brexit.  Known as the Outbound Controls Project, it will also deliver a clearer, logical, and more efficient flow through to the ferry check-in and boarding process.

On top of already lengthier border checks, the EU’s Entry Exit System (EES) is due to be introduced in May 2022, which means that all British citizens will have to register a digital identification profile at border control points and undergo a biometric check when entering the Schengen Area under the supervision of a French Police Aux Frontieres official.  This raises serious and practical challenges that need addressing now.

Dover calls on government for support and funding now.

This system, as currently designed, is principally for foot passengers at airports; not the smooth and uninterrupted flow of a roll-on roll-off ferry port, where it would be unsafe for families to leave their vehicles in live traffic lanes to carry out the process.

Operating under what are known as juxtaposed controls, profile registration would in theory have to be done at the French border controls in Dover and so potentially affects what is required via the Outbound Controls Project, which means it cannot yet be delivered as the rules for how it will be administered are, as yet, unknown.  This is another Anglo-French border matter needing urgent attention and a solution. 

Juxtaposed controls are the product of the Treaty of Le Touquet, the fundamental purpose of which is to prevent illegal immigrants from travelling to the UK.  It has been a crucial and successful feature of cross-Channel border management for the past two decades.  UK border entry checks are carried out in France and French border entry checks are carried out in Dover.

By mitigating the impact of new lengthier checks and keeping traffic flowing, the project’s successful delivery would maintain the integrity of the Treaty of Le Touquet.

However, if the government does not satisfactorily address the EES, then the future viability of the Treaty of Le Touquet could be at risk, with the consequential degradation of an important element of the UK’s border security.  The stakes are huge.

At this pivotal time as the UK adapts to a new trading relationship with the EU, emerges from Covid and faces renewed migration challenges, Dover calls on government for support and funding now.  This will improve the Port’s resilience and deliver the confidence its customers and their crucial supply chains need. 

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