COMMENT: Brexit and the impact on ports
Much of the negative Brexit talk on ports has been about queues of lorries at Dover, but not about worsening quayside and landside box port congestion at the UK’s big container terminals.
A lot of the positive talk has been about such box ports being ready for Brexit and other roll-on roll-off (ro-ro) ferry ports operated by the same owners being ready to take a bit of Dover’s traffic in case Dover is not.
Yet on all of these counts, while more ultra-large container vessels are diverted from major UK container ports such as Southampton to non-UK hubs, while imports destined for the UK Christmas market end up in Rotterdam delayed for several weeks, and while it becomes clear other UK ro-ro ports such as Hull or Immingham say they could only ever take up to 20% of Dover’s traffic at an eye-watering cost of around £2.5 billion, the Government’s focus is and has been on keeping all trade flowing through Dover.
Why? It is because British consumers ordering or buying their Christmas presents right up to the last minute want to know they will get them in time; because the ferries needed to divert Dover’s traffic do not actually exist; because the crossings are too long and the sailings too infrequent; and because leaving 80% of Dover’s traffic in a queue helps no-one. That is cheap, or perhaps not so cheap, opportunism at a time when Britain is again turning to its historic frontline, to Dover, for a solution that will actually work for everyone.
In fact, the Government understands that rather than becoming boxed in by distraction, it needs to remain 100% focused on the solution for Dover that will keep traffic flowing across the UK, keep shops full, factories busy and prices low for consumers.
That is why Dover is at the centre of contingency planning to minimise disruption in the event of a No-Deal Brexit. Dover handles more international lorries than all other UK ports combined. Unless we have another ice age before March 2019, Dover will remain the shortest sea crossing to Europe. The Port, together with the Government, is keeping the temperature hot on Brexit planning to keep the trade tap flowing through Dover. Elsewhere the deep freeze may have already taken hold as box port congestion and the resultant glacial movement of traffic gets a grip.
Dover may have seemed boxed in by Brexit, but it is punching out to ensure successful future trade with Europe remains about delivering a realistic solution. That means a free-flowing Dover, whose speed, efficiency and capacity cannot be replicated anywhere else. The solution is here. That’s why it is game Dover for the rest.