Disruption expected in UK as travel bans hit supply chains

By Damian Brett

Countries around the world have been banning commercial passenger flights from the UK, with French rules also affecting cross channel freight, due to a new Covid-19 variant.

At the time of writing, Ireland, Germany, France, Italy, the Netherlands, Belgium, Bulgaria, Turkey, Austria, Switzerland, Canada and Hong Kong have all temporarily banned UK passenger flights, which will have an impact on bellyhold capacity.

France has completely closed its borders with the UK for 48 hours meaning accompanied trucks are no longer able to reach the country. While this does not impact freight travelling to the UK, drivers may not went to enter the country because of concerns about how they will return.

Containerised and unaccompanied trailers are still able to enter the country. It is estimated around 10,000 trucks per day travel between Dover and Calais during peak periods.

The Netherlands has banned ferry passengers, but freight is allowed to continue.

Queues of trucks have already formed on the M20 motorway that leads to Folkestone and Dover, while Manston Airport in Kent is being prepared to be used as a temporary lorry park.

UK transport minister Grant Shapps said that of the 32,000 freight units expected to travel today, around 6,000 – equating to just under 19% – would be affected by the ban.

Fresh Food Federation chief executive Ian Wright said: “Tonight’s suspension of accompanied freight traffic from the UK to France has the potential to cause serious disruption to UK Christmas fresh food supplies and exports of UK food and drink.

“Continental truckers will not want to travel here if they have a real fear of getting marooned. The Government must very urgently persuade the French government to exempt accompanied freight from its ban.”

Logistics UK general manager Alex Veitch said: “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.”

The UK government has called an emergency committee meeting over the border issue.

Coronavirus cases in the UK have been rising quickly over recent weeks as a new variant has emerged that is thought to be more contagious.

 

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