Dover lorry chaos costing haulage firms £4,000 a week with meat and seafood close to going off

Exporters of shellfish and meat to Europe have branded delays for lorries towards Dover and the Eurotunnel an “unmitigated disaster” and a “nightmare” that is costing them thousands of pounds a week. Truckloads of perishable foods destined for continental markets have been caught up in queues of up to 30 hours along Kent’s M20, with lorry drivers stranded along a 23-mile coastbound stretch. Customers are unwilling to pay as much for produce that loses freshness and quality, with firms shipping to the continent having to spend more on delayed drivers’ wages as well as facing a loss of revenue from deliveries the vehicles could be making.

There has been days of traffic chaos towards Britian’s busiest port after the implementation of Operation Brock – the contraflow system to manage the flow of traffic – following the cancellation of P&O Ferries’ crossings over the sacking of 800 seafarers. Easter holiday traffic, problems with an IT system for post-Brexit customs checks and bad weather have added to a “perfect storm” of problems in recent weeks. Steve Burns, a sales manager at MBS Inter Mar, a Scottish live shellfish exporter delivering 60,000kg a year of seafood, including prawns, langoustine and lobsters, to Europe, estimates they are losing GBP4,000 (EUR5,000) a week, with the current delays a risk to the business’s viability.

MBS Inter Mar, a Scottish firm exporting 60,000kg each year of live shellfish, including prawns, langoustine and lobsters, has said the curent delays at Dover are a ‘disaster’ and risk the viability of the business (Photo: MBS Intel Mar)

Mr Burns told i: “It’s an unmitigated disaster.

We have got live shellfish which is travelling down to Boulogne to then go to other destinations in France and Spain. “We don’t have half an hour to waste, nevermind 12 hours. Something that is worth GBP10,000 today could be worth GBP5,000 tomorrow and worth zero the following day.

“It is highly perishable and the value plummets as delays continue. If you add Brexit, disaster one, and you add these problems at the port, disaster two, you wonder if the business is actually viable at all.” The delays have meant some deliveries are not arriving in France in time for the crucial weekend restaurant market, with customers not paying as much for produce that is late and not as fresh.

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Their firm has stopped shipping on certain days because of the risk their product won’t arrive in time for the weekend, with fed up customers turning to more reliable suppliers.

He added: “A dead prawn is worth zero, in fact it might be worth less because you might have to destroy it because it’s not fit for human consumption. “We have had a lot of credit notes because the product arrived the following day and people will credit us for more mortality so they want to pay you less. “We have actually stopped shipping on certain days because the risk of missing the last market day is too great.

“That has a knock-on effect of keeping the product here and we are seeing mortality in our factory because you shouldn’t really be keeping the prawns for three or four days in the water. It’s too long.” The British Meat Processors Association said some of its members had waited 24 hours or more to cross into Europe.

Dover lorry chaos costing haulage firms £4,000 a week with meat and seafood close to going off Freight and passenger queues waiting to check- in at the Port of Dover, Kent (Photo: Gareth Fuller/PA Wire)

Long tailbacks have also meant lorry drivers are being forced over their legally required daily quota of hours and need to take a break after arriving in France. Roy White, a director for hauliers Whites Transport Services, in Hungerford, Berkshire, which has 28 trucks delivering lamb and beef to Europe, described the current situation as “chaos”, which is costing them around GBP700 a lorry.

He said: “It’s a nightmare. It took one of our trucks last night 10 hours to get across. It’s definitely putting an extra day on the shelf life.

It’s not going off, but it’s putting an extra day on the shelf life. “It’s a massive knock-on effect with delays on deliveries and that means delays on connections. We had a driver sat in the queue all night last night to catch the shuttle from Folkestone to Calais.

“As soon as he got off he couldn’t go anywhere he had to go on his break. Obviously there is extra wages and you are losing revenue with the truck.” Mr White, who also drives lorries, said he believes the current delays for hours along the M20 make the job “depressing”, adding “I wonder why drivers want to do it these days”

Drivers who have been stranded along the M20 have also spoken of their disgust at the lack of toilet facilities, with truckers left in their vehicles with no food or water. Lorry driver Toby Cooley, 47, originally from Boston, Lincolnshire, but now living in France, was stuck in Operation Brock for nearly 16 hours last Friday as he queued to reach Folkestone. He said: “There was no toilets.

There are more bottles of urine and bags of faeces on that M2O than anything else. You wouldn’t treat a dog like it. “It is a nightmare.

It makes you feel worthless.

We are just second-class citizens, scum of the earth.”

A spokesperson for the multi-agency Kent Resilience Forum: “For safety reasons it is not possible to provide welfare on a live motorway where traffic is moving, even if slowly, but when cross-Channel freight queues were at a standstill food and water was provided.