Problems with the government’s post-Brexit customs IT system, out-of-commission ferries, and Easter surge traffic have combined to create HGV gridlock on the Channel crossing between Dover and Calais.
A 23-mile stretch of the M20 has been closed as part of Operation Brock since 1 April as thousands of lorries queue to reach Dover.
One haulier, Scotland-based Eardley International, warned each stranded lorry was costing £800 a day and Kent traffic management has been slammed as “manifestly unfit for purpose”.
Nick Allen, CEO of the British Meat Processors Association, said disruption was expected to last well into this week.
“In our just-in-time food supply chain, this kind of failure to supply means that we start to lose EU customers, who turn to other countries to provide a more reliable supply of product,” he said.
“With Easter weekend approaching, which is a very busy time for exporting fresh meat, this is extremely bad timing.
“Lorry drivers are complaining that the communication is really poor and that no one on the ground seems to know what is happening. These drivers are running out of food and water, and access to facilities is poor.
“We have been in touch with Defra [Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs] but at the moment there doesn't seem to be any sign of any prioritisation for fresh produce being put in place. We need the authorities to review the situation as a matter of urgency and take appropriate action to keep the flow of perishable food moving.”
The Goods Vehicle Movement Service (GVMS) has been suffering from a systems outage since March 31, and was not expected to be up and running until Monday (11 April).
A Logistics UK spokesperson said: “The queues can be attributed to a combination of reduced capacity due to suspended P&O services, bad weather last weekend which damaged a vessel and prevented others from sailing, as well as all this coinciding with the busy Easter getaway period and increased friction at the border caused by the UK’s departure from the EU.
“Nonetheless, the GVMS outage is a serious concern for traders and will have to be thoroughly investigated, as will the Kent traffic management arrangements which are manifestly not fit for purpose.”
HMRC has implemented contingency measures, allowing hauliers to show other evidence that a customs declaration has been made to take goods into or out of the UK.
A HMRC spokesperson said: “Following an outage, we have successfully made changes to the HMRC network to allow availability of the Goods Vehicle Movement Service.
“Contingencies remained in place over the weekend to continue to ensure the movement of goods and allow continued testing. From Monday midday, Goods Movement References will be required for all movements using GVMS.”
Meanwhile several P&O ferries, representing a third of Dover’s usual capacity, are still out of commission over the mass sacking of crew members, causing reduced sailings at the Dover-Calais crossing. P&O Ferries declined to comment.
P&O’s mass sackings have also caused its Dubai-based owner, DP World, to lose its status as partner in the Solent freeport. Their UK commercial director resigned from the scheme’s board last week.
GVMS was introduced on 1 January as part of the government's post-Brexit border management system.
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