Freight Transport Association (FTA): "UK Supply Chain in danger of collapse"

Calais immigrants: UK supply chains are in danger of 'serious disruption' (pic: Handy Shipping Guide)

  • UK imports facing critical problems from calais immigrants

  • FTA: "UK supply chain in danger of serious disruption"

  • Foreign Office: trucks targeted in particular (reuters)

  • reports of Truck drivers being stabbed and threatened

  • Violence between immigration gangs escalating

  • immigrants are contaminating food shipments

  • £2m a month in produce lost, £10m estimated this year

  • companies 'trying to avoid Calais', Drivers not stopping within 130 miles

  • Home Secretary involved, UK pledge £12m

  • Strikes Close Channel Tunnel, blockades worsen situation

The Freight Transport Association (FTA) has issued a series of worrying statements, alongside government agencies and other groups and organisations, regarding the critical impact that the immigration problems in Calais are having on UK imports.

The statements were published before the Channel Tunnel strikes this week, which saw blockades and fires disrupt traffic and cause an even greater rise in incidents but that are not the cause of the problems, which are getting worse and will continue after the strikes have ended.

Multiple articles on the FTA website ( warn of the escalating problems, and the situation has been covered widely in mainstream media, with many articles quoting the FTA.

As well as warnings from the FTA, other groups have been voicing concerns. Nigel Jenney, CEO of the Fresh Produce Consortium, estimates that £10million of goods has been dumped by its members this year due to contamination by immigrants at Calais.

He states that one-third of produce came from mainland Europe, mainly France and Spain, but problems had become so severe that some companies were now ‘doing their best to avoid Calais’.

Violence has broken out between gangs recently, and drivers are increasingly unwilling to travel through the port town.

The FTA has appealed to the mayor of Calais for support to address the situation around the migrant camps. The FTA is looking to pressure the French and British governments and the EU for improved security, and to move immigrants away from the port.

Driver security, cargo losses and additional checks and delays are building up to create a potential disaster that could affect the major high-street retailers, and impact all sectors and not just food produce.

Some drivers have been reported to have been stabbed or threatened by illegal immigrants, and many fear for their lives following escalating threats of violence, as the estimated 3,000 illegal immigrants living in Calais who are attempting to cross into the UK resort to more and more desperate and extreme measures.

The situation escalated this week as the Channel Tunnel was closed due to a worker strike. According to Reuters 400 striking workers blockaded the port, and the delays and tailbacks that resulted created a frenzy of immigrants trying to take advantage of the situation, attacking trucks and vehicles that had been caught in the chaos.

Trucks Targeted

Calais trucks bound for the UK are being attacked regularly (pic: Daily Mail)

The UK have pledged £12million towards new fencing and security measures in Calais. A spokeswoman on behalf of British Prime said in a statement from the foreign office:

"There are large numbers of illegal migrants in and around Calais who may seek to enter the UK illegally. Although local police patrols have been reinforced, you should keep vehicle doors locked in slow-moving traffic and secure your vehicle when it is left unattended." - Foreign Office Spokeswoman for David Cameron (source: Reuters)

The police in Arras highlighted in a statement that trucks carrying all types of cargo were being specifically targeted:

"Migrants are trying to climb into lorries stopped in traffic jams on the motorway leading to the tunnel. They're trying to hide in lorries in particular." - Police Press Office, Arras (source: Reuters)

Senior FTA members have spoken out on the situation and been quoted in the media. The Handy Shipping Guide highlights the concerns that the UK freight commmunity have at the moment and the EU responsibilities to address the problems in an article which quotes Donald Armour, the FTA International Affairs Manager:

“The UK Government really must insist on greater proactive involvement by the responsible French authorities; if they don’t act soon the UK supply chain could be in serious danger of being very badly disrupted. With an estimated 3,000 migrants now living rough in Calais the surrounding area, the FTA’s principle concern is the safety of drivers attempting to travel safely through the port and trying to avoid stowaways hitching a ride on a lorry into the UK. We don’t believe that truck drivers should be made to act as unpaid immigrations officers” - Donald Armour, FTA International Affairs Manager (source: Handy Shipping Guide)

The Daily Mail quotes James Hookham, the FTA Deputy Chief Executive, who describes the situation as "chaos". The quotes were published before the Channel Tunnel strikes, which have escalated the situation yet further but are not the main cause of the problems.

"We are pressing for more visible commitment from the French government to [tackle] criminal activities on French soil and [face] their responsibilities for the protection of British drivers while in their jurisdiction.

"We have some lorries being surrounded by dozens, if not hundreds, of people, trying locks, attempting to get into containers, stowing themselves underneath or even slitting open curtain-sided vehicles to get in. It’s chaos." - James Hookham, FTA Deputy Chief Executive (source: Daily Mail)

In the Express, Donald Armour was quoted in a separate statement as voicing serious concerns over the UK supply chain, warning that supermarkets could experience food shortages as a result of the ongoing crisis, and that damaged shipments, driver shortages and delays could have serious repercussions in the UK.

"A lot of goods you're buying in Tesco or Morrison's or Waitrose are imported through Dover to Calais and if any stowaways jump on board the vehicles then there's a risk of contamination of the food. The big supermarkets of course can't risk any sort of contamination of the food, so it might mean that the oranges you were expecting don't turn up on the supermarket shelves or there aren't so many lettuces for your weekend salad or whatever it is.

"Equally if components which have come in from Italy or from Germany are due to be at a car factory for the afternoon and don't arrive because the vehicle has been held up for an examination, then they could have a shift shutdown at that factory. Even with the mail, people are waiting for contracts to come through and that could delay the purchase of land or a major business contract or anything you can think of.

"A number of European companies are also really having problems getting drivers who are prepared to do the UK run, because why should they face all the possible risk and danger involved coming through Calais when they could go to Milan or Bucharest instead? We haven't got to a critical point yet where they are running short on drivers or vehicles to go to the UK, but there's a definite undercurrent of haulage companies saying 'we're getting our vehicles damaged, the migrants are pulling off the locks, we're not going to do the UK run anymore'. - Donald Armour, FTA International Affairs Manager (Source: Daily and Sunday Express)

Any business which involves the shipping or transportation of goods between mainland Europe and the UK through the French port needs to monitor the situation closely. Freight forwarders can advise on any difficulties they are currently experiencing, and advise on the risks and any potential alternatives that are deemed necessary.


The BBC have published a video report "Nothing to stop migrants entering lorries at Calais" on the 24th June, two days after this article was first published. See the video and article here.