How Calais crisis is hitting freight forwarders

Here’s what you need to know about the Calais crisis and how it is affecting both freight companies and smaller businesses whose goods may be delayed in transit.

This week the crisis at Calais crisis reached a new peak with Eurotunnel services temporarily suspended in the face of a burning blockade by French strikers. Nightly incursions into the Channel Tunnel by up to 1,500 migrants and asylum seekers encamped nearby are adding to delays.

It’s the latest in a series of miseries to hit UK freight and logistics companies at Calais, which has seen daily attempts by migrants to board vehicles and long tailbacks as Operation Stack closed sections of the M20 leading to Dover creating a 30-mile queue of 4,600 parked HGVs.

Rob Pike, MD, International Forwarding Ltd (IFL) – an independent transport and logistics company based in the Midlands – has been reposting footage from freight drivers passing through Calais on their way to the UK. He says the situation has escalated even further since French ferry workers started striking in June, and is increasingly concerned about the threat to his drivers and his company’s business as an independent UK haulier.

“The main issue is the French ferry company protesters striking at Calais,” says Mr Pike, who secured his own HGV driver’s licence last month. “However it does have a knock-on effect because the trucks are all at a standstill, making it far easier to be targeted by the migrants and asylum seekers that are there.

“It’s obviously all causing massive delays to imports and exports and, while the big corporate companies can withstand the delays, it’s the smaller businesses whose goods we carry that will be hugely affected by loss of cash flow, which will obviously put them at risk.”

The costs to the UK economy of Operation Stack has been estimated at £250 million a day with the overall trade through the Channel Tunnel valued in the region of £200 billion a year. But it’s freight customers and hauliers who are dealing with the delays and costs on a daily basis.

“As far as IFL goes, we’ve just had to quote customers on transit times and make them aware that everything is subject to access to the ferries and tunnel – and that there isn’t much that can be done about it.

“The new secure parking area (expected in the autumn and said to offer secure space for 200 UK-bound lorries) is welcome for drivers and to protect our loads but industry groups are saying it is too little too late and that it’s just not big enough.”