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Freight to France halted for 48 hours, Irish freight continues to move

[ December 21, 2020   //   ]

The French government has stopped all accompanied freight and passenger movements from the UK for 48 hours over concerns of a new strain of coronavirus in the UK. The ban applies to ferry services and Eurotunnel.
The port of Dover has been closed to traffic. A message on the Port of Dover website read: “Both accompanied freight and passenger customers are asked not to travel to the Port. We understand that the restrictions will be in place for 48 hours from midnight (CET). We apologise for the inconvenience and will provide an update as soon as possible.”
The Eurotunnel website said: “Following the announcement by the French Government that it will not accept persons arriving from the UK for at least 48 hours from midnight CET, access to the Eurotunnel Folkestone terminal will be suspended for passenger and Freight traffic from 22:00 GMT, Sunday 20 December.
“UK Customers with bookings after this time are advised NOT to travel to the terminal as they will not be able to cross to France. For any passengers heading to the UK in the next few days: it is essential that you check the rules for travel and accommodation in the UK before travelling. Please note, the border is currently closed from the UK into France for at least 48 hours.”
While the ban does not apply to freight moving from France to the UK, non-UK drivers may be reluctant to make the trip for fear of being stranded.
Unaccompanied freight is not reported to be affected by the ban, but the proportion of such traffic is low on the Dunkerque/Calais-Dover routes and nil on Eurotunnel.

Ferry booking agent Motis said: “Direct routes from GB to Netherlands and Belgium are currently allowing driver-accompanied freight, although space on these routes will be extremely difficult to get before Christmas.”
A ban on passenger travel was reported to be in place on travel to Ireland, although apparently not for freight. The Irish Government website stated: “Ferry crossings between Ireland and Great Britain will continue in order to keep essential supply chains moving. The government direction for people not to travel from Great Britain to Ireland does not extend to essential supply chain workers.”
Stena Line said that all freight transport services, including accompanied movements by freight drivers, are unaffected by the restrictions, although passenger travel to Ireland and the Netherlands has been halted.
A number of countries, including France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Ireland, Germany and Italy have also halted flights to the UK.
General manager at Logistics UK, Alex Veitch, commented: “Logistics UK is aware that accompanied freight from the UK is not being allowed access to France for 48 hours; Logistics UK is very concerned about the welfare of drivers travelling from the UK to France at this time and is urgently seeking more information for our members. Driver health and safety is our key concern, and it is essential that they continue to be recognised as key workers and given access to testing, if necessary, as a priority to ensure the continued movement of goods to and from France.
“Shoppers should not panic buy – retailers will be making every effort to ensure there is stock within the system, including fresh produce, and it is important that we remember that inbound traffic still has access to the UK. We are maintaining close contact with UK government to ensure that supplies of fresh produce are available throughout Christmas and the New Year.
“Our advice to members is to check with ports before travelling, and keep in close contact with drivers to ensure their welfare is maintained.”

French transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari said it hoped to reach an agreeement with the EU that would allow traffic to and from the UK to resume.

David Jinks from Parcelhero warned however: “France is now putting protocols in place to get goods moving again, but given the critical timing, the damage has already been done.

“International parcels mostly travel by airfreight and will be less impacted by the closure of EU ports, so most ParcelHero services are unaffected, but we have to be realistic about how many goods are arriving in the UK now as a whole – especially larger items arriving by container lorries.”