Saturday 24th Sep 2016 - Logistics Manager

East Coast freight booms in face of Calais crisis

The disruption to cross channel services at Calais is leading logistics users to find different routes to Europe, with P&O Ferries reporting a 172 per cent increase in activity on its Teesport to Zeebrugge route and Bespoke Distribution Aviation (BDA) tripling its numbers of charter flights across Europe.

P&O recorded big increases in volumes of trucks crossing the North Sea to and from all three of its east coast ports in July. The Hull to Zeebrugge route saw an 84 per cent year-on-year rise and the Tilbury to Zeebrugge route saw a 74 per cent increase. In total, P&O Ferries carried 2,518 HGVs across the North Sea during the month.

Janette Bell, commercial director at P&O Ferries, said: “Importers and exporters who have previously crossed to the continent via the Channel tunnel are starting to look at longer routes from Teesport, Hull and Tilbury as a more reliable alternative.

“Exporters know the value and time sensitive nature of their deliveries, whether they are perishable goods or manufacturing components. It is significant that they are now becoming increasingly aware of the alternative North Sea routes to the continent.”

BDA expects more users to turn to air freight solutions in light of the ongoing disruption to cross channel services. Over the past two months, BDA has significantly increased the volume of charters it is providing to industries, including automotive, medical and agricultural.

Kevin Turner, group managing director at BDA, said: “We are finding that the disruption to cross channel services is forcing a lot of automotive OEMs to consider air freight as the only viable option for meeting tight delivery deadlines.”

Meanwhile, freight forwarder Rhenus Logistics UK has warned that freight prices could rise significantly in the next few weeks, unless the ongoing crisis at Calais is resolved.

David Williams, managing director of Rhenus UK, said: “Having coped with Operation Stack for several weeks now, we’re seeing drivers resigning from this route, due to the stress of queuing for hours and the hassle of getting through the port. In addition, the risk of stowaways and the potential for fines and involvement with the authorities is a huge disincentive for both drivers and hauliers to continue with the Calais option.

“The decision by drivers to step away from this route has already seen a number of freight businesses introducing surcharges of one to two per cent. The rise in costs – due to increased fuel bills, man hours and required rest breaks – is now becoming a very serious issue for the logistics industry.”

He added that other export route options, on the North Sea and western channel, do not have enough capacity to cope with demand created by the problems at Calais.

“While there has been a fair amount of exaggeration from businesses wanting to make a political point about the Calais situation, things are now getting serious,” he said. “The Calais crossing is operational, but the exodus of drivers will inevitably force prices up.”