Priority Freight’s logistics director weighs in on U.K. migrant crisis

Priority Freight - Paul WilliamsPaul Williams, the logistics director for U.K. – based logistics company, Priority Freight, said the company experienced a 300 percent increase in airfreight bookings last year, moving goods that could have been delivered by road, were it not for the migrant crisis in Calais, France,  which began last summer. The crossing to Dover, England, was backed up due to migrants attempting to jump on U.K. bound trucks, which often resulted in contaminated cargo.

“While airfreight might cost more, (it) ultimately keeping goods moving (and) saves manufacturers money,” Williams said in an opinion piece. The blockages on the roadways have forced manufacturers to consolidate shipments from several key component suppliers, which increased the need for large aircraft charters by 600 percent just in July 2015.

Though it has been a financial boon to Priority Freight’s charter business, Williams called the migrant crisis “A humanitarian disaster of historic proportions, the effect of which continues to be felt throughout Europe. It’s a costly issue in more ways than one, and the European supply chain is certainly not immune.”

William cited the BSI Supply Chain Security Risk Index, which estimates that the crisis has caused £660 million worth of losses for the British economy in 2015, while the shared European financial drain amounts to about US$1 billion in shipping disruption. “September 2015 saw Europe’s highest number of border closures since the signing of the Schengen Agreement in 1995,” he said.

“The damage this European-wide emergency is causing to U.K. business has already been extreme, largely due to Operation Stack necessitating the closure of the M20 for 28 days last summer,” Williams said. The M20 travels from the Port of Dover through Kent. He said the long-term vision for easing the stress of freight travel through the area includes two new truck parks near the M20. The Freight Transport Association believes this would help ease the road chaos.

Williams went on to say that while Operation Stack, Dover TAP (traffic assessment project) and a new truck parking area would address some of the disruption and the bottlenecking of freight in the U.K. coastal town of Dover, there’s not much the logistics community can do about the political and human consequences of displacement on such a large scale.

In December, on one of 2015’s busiest days for cross-channel freight traffic, the FTA reported unprecedented scenes in Calais, on the other side of the Channel Tunnel. Chris Yarsley, from the FTA’s Brussels office, said: I am flabbergasted at what I have seen today; there were literally thousands of migrants benefitting from the queue of slow moving traffic on the roads around Calais. They were attacking vehicles; breaking the locks of trucks, slashing roofs of the lorries and climbing in the back of them.”

In the meantime, the impasse continues, even with a new holding area in the U.K. town of Kent. The freight industry is naturally concerned about moving freight, but the displacement of thousands of people, without a long-term solution, will continue to be a problem for the European supply chain, Williams said.


Photo: Paul Williams, Priority Freight

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