DOVER, England (Reuters) – Dover, Europe’s busiest trucking port, expects some disruption when Britain finally leaves the European Union’s orbit on Dec. 31 and is already seeing almost record volumes as companies rush to stockpile, its chief executive told Reuters on Thursday.
Britain left the EU on Jan. 31 and when it leaves informal membership at 2300 GMT on Dec. 31 companies in Britain will have to complete full customs declarations and paperwork to move goods into and out of the world’s biggest trading bloc.
“We are expecting that there will be some disruption but the one thing that the Port of Dover has is a proven track record of being able to clear disruption very effectively and get back to normal operations,” Doug Bannister told Reuters in Dover as a ferry loaded behind him and departed for Calais.
The British government has warned that in the worst case scenario, if companies have not completed the paperwork correctly, some 7,000 trucks could back up from the Dover turning south east England into a giant truck park.
Bannister said the port was as best prepared as it could be but that there was uncertainty over how far traders were ready for customs declarations from Jan. 1.
As trade negotiations go down the wire in Brussels, Bannister said a deal before New Year’s Eve would improve relations while an acrimonious no-trade deal exit could prompt unpredictable consequences.
“You can imagine that if there’s a no deal or a bad deal say about fishing rights then there could be some challenges with some French fishermen in the ports over on the French side – there could be disruption on the trains as well with burning tyres on the tracks and that kind of stuff,” he said.
Bannister, who hails from New Jersey, said volumes had been cranking for a couple weeks as companies rush to stockpile ahead of any disruption.
Volumes reached 10,141 trucks in the latest 24 hour period – or over 100 miles of trucks – compared to a normal volume of around 7,500 to 8,500 a day.
As part of the preparation Dover had applied to the government for 33 million pounds in funding to adapt the port for life outside the EU, an application that was recently rejected.
Bannister said he was disappointed by the move which would have enabled the port to more easily send trucks with the wrong paperwork back on to the road, without disrupting the rest of the traffic.
He said he expected volumes to remain high right up to New Year’s Eve and then drop off in early January. The most worrisome period, he said, would be in mid to late January when volumes picked up again.
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