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The University of Kent

11/28/2018 | News release | Distributed by Public on 11/28/2018 06:16

Expert comment: UK must ensure ports are ready for a no-deal Brexit to avoid major chaos

'Today's report by the Public Accounts Committee on preparations for Brexit highlights the precarious position of Kent in any future scenario that disrupts the free movement of trucks through Dover and the Channel Tunnel. Over 4.2 million trucks passed through the two in 2017, which can be between 120,000 and 150,000 on some days.

'Additional checks on such traffic arriving in or departing from the UK have the potential to create perpetual queues. Dover alone handles some 27 million tonnes of freight a year, nearly six per cent of UK total trade. But this underestimates the importance of Dover as the unit value of trade on ferries is much higher than the bulk trade handled by some of the other ports. This is not just higher value trade but also time sensitive trade such as fresh fruit and vegetables. Alternative routes may be available but obvious competitors such as Felixstowe, which handles about the same volume of trade as Dover, would also face serious inland congestion.

'To put this into perspective air freight, an obvious alternative for time sensitive goods, amounts to less than 10 per cent of the volume of trade through Dover. The largest airport for freight, Heathrow, handles two-thirds of air freight traffic and Heathrow is already at capacity. There is an ambiguity here, however, as a portion of the trade that comes through Dover is actually counted as air freight at Heathrow because it involves transfers by road between major European airports.

'Of course if the UK leaves the European Union without a trade deal the volume of trade through Dover and the Channel Tunnel may fall substantially, but that seems a rather drastic way of ensuring traffic keeps moving on Kent's roads.'

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