Many Irish hauliers leave congested Port of Dover

Truck drivers would have back up plan with many getting ferry to Holland, Verona Murphy says

Police officers and lorry drivers congregate at the entrance to the Port of Dover, in Dover in Kent, south east England,  as the Covid-19 testing of drivers queueing to depart from the ferry terminal to Europe gets under way. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

Police officers and lorry drivers congregate at the entrance to the Port of Dover, in Dover in Kent, south east England, as the Covid-19 testing of drivers queueing to depart from the ferry terminal to Europe gets under way. Photograph: Justin Tallis/AFP via Getty Images

 

The Irish have already left the Port of Dover and its congested approach roads “proving again that the Irish know their logistics” Wexford TD Verona Murphy has said.

More than 4,000 lorries have been stuck on roads and at an emergency lorry park on Manston airfield, after France closed its UK border on Sunday amid concern over a possibly fast-spreading virus variant.

The former president of the Irish Road Haulage Association, rejected notions of “the luck of the Irish” saying that drivers and haulage firms would have had a back up plan. She said many of the Irish would have switched from Dover to Gillingham, also in Kent, from whether they would get a ferry to the Hook of Holland.

Others had simply been dropping containers at Dover and this would have been allowed, while more would be picking up containers at Dover, which was also allowed, she said.

Ms Murphy said some lorries had turned around and returned to Ireland where their loads were put on board the “direct route” from Rosslare, when Stena brought forward the deployment of an additional Ferry originally scheduled for introduction in January.

“But the Road Haulage Association was close to this throughout and I was staying in touch. I don’t know of any Irish who are still stuck at Kent. I think we are all out”, she said.

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The French government’s ban, introduced on Sunday, has now been eased to allow French citizens, British nationals living in France and hauliers to travel - if they test negative less than 72 hours before departure.

However Ms Murphy said she had “big fears” for planned “landbridge” sailings from Ireland via the UK, set to begin again on December 27th, with one ship from Dublin and another from Rosslare.

David McArdle of DG McArdle International which is based in Dublin and Co Monaghan said the firm had two lorries and two drivers in Dover on Sunday as the French closed access to lorries from Britain.

He said his two lorries were just inside the “French area” of the port when the ban came into effect. “They were just through the port control and technically on the French side so they were able to drive onto the train for the channel tunnel” he said.

The company has 90 to 100 lorry movements between Ireland and the Continent each week but in future Mr McArdle said the company would be looking towards the direct route, as opposed to the landbridge through the UK.

He said the introduction of the EU ’Green Lane’ initiative was a major incentive to use direct sailings.

Under the Green Lane system, freight, including agri-food produce, moving across borders is able to use the green lane to keep checks and disruptions to a maximum of 15 minutes.

The measure particularly references restrictions associated with Covid-19 and Mr McArdle said as “essential services” the lorries would not face delays of the kind which happened in Britain, if moving from one EU country to another.

The EU said member states had been requested to – “without delay” – designate border-crossing points on the Trans-European Transport Network as ‘green lanes’, which would be open to all freight vehicles, whatever goods they are carrying.

The network consists of the most important arteries for road, rail and inland waterways, and integrates ports, airports and multi-model terminals