Hauliers could get caught in red tape

Traffic at ports including Dover (pictured) is set to increase. Photo: Oast House Archive (cc-by-sa/2.0)

Rising levels of HGV traffic at ports could cause "significant disruption" if traders and hauliers don't comply with new post-Brexit and COVID test checks, the UK government has warned. The combination of low border traffic, and good compliance with Brexit and COVID-19 testing rules, has kept disruption at the border to a minimum.

However, the volume of HGV traffic is steadily increasing by around 20% each day, with the expectation that lorries at GB-EU border will reach pre-Christmas levels this week, said the government in a press release on 8 January. It stated that from the week beginning 11 January "we are expecting that volumes will reach their business as usual levels for this time of year, which equates to c.

5000-6000 vehicles per day. This means border and trader readiness is critical.

By the fourth week of January we expect to see around 40,000 trucks heading to France each week". The government added: "These increased flows have the potential to cause significant disruption if traders and hauliers have not taken the necessary steps to comply with the new rules." It said hauliers trading between Great Britain and the EU have been urged to ensure they meet necessary requirements before travelling to the border.

This includes the correct documentation, including export declarations from exporters, while hauliers heading to Kent must get a negative COVID-19 test and obtain a Kent Access Permit before heading to the Port of Dover. Around 700 lorries have been turned away from the border since the end of the transition period - the majority of which were based on the lack of a negative COVID-19 test. Ports have already overcome congestion

At the end of last year, UK ports faced major congestion  congestion as they face the impact of the global COVID-19 pandemic continues and Brexit. The Port of Felixstowe, first of the UK's ports to experience major congestion issues, said in its most recent update that it is still experiencing high container volumes and dealing with the consequences of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Fully operational, the port said: "The current high volumes are expected to last well into the first quarter and we are working hard to minimise the impact on daily operations and to maintain vital supply chains."

Over the Christmas period, Felixstowe handled 103,732 TEU across the quay, 18,369 TEU to/from rail, and 36,450 containers to/from road vehicles. Port of Dover In December, the Port of Dover saw huge queues of lorries and stranded drivers, requiring it to working with its sister ports in France, ferry operators and both the French and UK border agencies to try and rectify the situation.

On the 18th December, it reported is was handling over 10,000 lorries a day, 20-25% up on last year's volumes during this period. After closing to traffic heading to France on 21 December, the port reopened on 22 December. Additionally, as the end of the Brexit transition period loomed, the port learned that despite applying for GB?33m of funding from the Port Infrastructure Fund, it was to receive "just one tenth of one per cent of what was needed".

Speaking during the most recent Drewry Quarterly Port Sector Briefing in December, Eleanor Hadland, senior analyst, Ports & Terminals, said the UK port market became overloaded because it was inbalanced for a normal year . In Q3 2020, there was an element of pent up demand, a lot of forward stocking due to Brexit and the COVID-19 pandemic. "I think the situation worsened in September," said Ms Hadland. "There had been a build up of PPE in certain UK ports, Felixstowe very notable, with cargo not moving as quickly as it should have, off of the port into offdock storage yards, because the warehouse were full.

Alongside the build up in demand, additional issue have included bad weather, which disrupted ship unloading, and a CGM CMA cyber-attack. "All of those were outside the port's control. But the port is the buffer zone and with this massive upswing in demand, the yard became congested because the landside transport side simply doesn't have that capability to expand capacity very quickly.

There's a fixed number of trucks and qualified HGV drivers in The UK. So you can't simply double up the number of containers collected from the port. It can only go out at a certain speed.

So the port acting as that buffer zone quickly became congested, ship productivity then fell which led to certain carriers to cut and run, or leaving empty containers within the main container yard, which caused more congestion, which meant productivity fell, which meant that more carriers cut and run, which meant the yard got busier."

This overflowed to other ports where there was very short notice diversion of cargo, she said.

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