London Medway has reported a substantial increase in trade on its unaccompanied freight service between the UK and France in recent weeks amid ongoing Dover delays.
The cross-channel service, which is run by DFDS, has witnessed a 34 per cent increase in units in the last fortnight as congestion issues continue to plague South East ports.
The rise in demand for the service, between Sheerness and Calais, has seen individual vessels recently carrying more than 200 units and the route has proven extremely popular as a much-needed solution to ongoing delays.
The route also experienced a 30 per cent increase in unit volumes between April and June this year compared to the last six months of 2021, during a time when Dover again faced issues with P&O.
Unaccompanied freight, which sees trailers and containers shipped without a driver, is seen by some in the industry as a major way of overcoming challenges with customs delays, driver shortages and storage.
The volume increases on the service, which launched in June 2021, have exceeded market expectations and owner Peel Ports’ long-term future in delivering a viable and sustainable alternative route for the UK’s supply chain.
Richard Goffin, Port Director at London Medway, said: “Peel Ports has argued for many years that the solution to the South East congestion is simple. Rather than travel as accompanied freight, cargo that is non-perishable can move on unaccompanied services through more reliable routes such as London Medway.
“Although the sea-leg is longer, routing via regional ports such as London Medway is just as efficient as the existing options through the Dover Straits, as road miles are reduced. These journeys also allow for clearance checks to be completed without the pressure of a 90-minute crossing increasing throughput and capacity.”
Goffin noted that the UK supply chain has become reliant on Dover and the Channel Tunnel, with 75 per cent of the trailer freight market between north-west Europe and Britain passing through this pinch point.
“The solution provided by DFDS and London Medway evidently works and it’s fantastic to see such a strong increase in trade, demonstrating the willingness of our supply chain to consider alternative route options that increase efficiency,” he said.
In other UK news, Union members at the Port of Felixstowe have rejected the company’s latest settlement offer after workers gave notice of industrial action last week.
More than 1,900 members of Unite union at Felixstowe will strike from 21 until 29 August in a dispute over pay.