M20 road traffic accident 22 July 2022

Freight movements in and out of Dover are facing substantive delays, which may last well into next week, amid staff shortages and a serious crash on the motorway to the Kent port.

Chief executive of Port of Dover Doug Bannister said today such was the extent of the chaos that he was declaring it a “critical incident” and, while much of the focus has been on holidaymakers, the impact on cargo throughput was “massive”.

Brokerage manager at Metro Shipping Andy Fitchett told The Loadstar: “We’ve already begun rerouting urgent shipments through Portsmouth.

“This decision means much longer transit times, but we are not wanting to get stuck in delays and backlogs, attempting to get into Dover, before making a decision to reroute later in the day, when we expect to see others doing the same – so we acted this morning.”

However, it appears others were not so lucky, as sources have told The Loadstar Portsmouth sailings have now run out of space.

A note from hauliers described a “nightmare day all round”, advising that for those not already with alternative options to stick with Dover, although group operations director at Priority Freight Andrew Austin said it was aware of trucks that were facing 5.5-hour delays to the EU and three-hour delays into the UK.

“With the beginning of the summer holidays upon us, we predict these delays will likely remain over the weekend, and possibly into next week,” Mr Austin told The Loadstar. “The increased volume through Dover is a seasonal norm, and usually well managed, but restricted staff numbers and additional processes in France are creating bottlenecks.”

Much of the blame has landed at the feet of French authorities, which have been slammed for not processing passengers quick enough, generating tailbacks along the M20.

Mr Bannister said it “became apparent” at around 4am today that there was going to be a shortage of French agents to handle the expected surge in holidaymakers, with the UK government seemingly quick to point the finger of blame for the chaos at the French.

And compounding problems today for the freight sector was news of a serious crash between a van and a lorry near Junction 11 of the M20, which houses the Stop24 truck stop used by hauliers to secure documentation in and out of the UK, well as toll permits and rail tickets for those headed towards Europe.

One source said: “This will itself create a huge bottleneck for haulage, as it is critical infrastructure supporting documentation requirements.”

Another source said the fact that the queues had stretched so far along the M20 indicated the scale of chaos those looking to move goods between the UK and Europe were facing, noting that some were looking to relocate through Harwich as an alternative.

Conservative MP for Dover and Deal Natalie Elphicke said the French had put on additional border force officers to help clear the backlog, “but this would take time”.

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