Managing the Port of Dover: Operating and developing one of the world’s busiest ferry ports



Barbara Buczek, head of external and corporate affairs, Port of Dover, UK



The Port of Dover is a significant asset locally, regionally and for the UK. It has enormous national and international importance as one of the UK’s main trade gateways with continental Europe. Goods to the value of £80 billion (about $129 billion) pass through the port in any one year.

The Port of Dover is one of the world’s busiest international ferry ports, handling almost 13 million passengers and around 5 million vehicles annually. It is also the second busiest UK cruise port and the fourth largest UK port for fresh produce imports. It complements these core activities with an award winning marina. The port supports around 22,000 jobs, many in the local community.

The port has submitted plans to the UK Government to privatize the port in January 2010. This will enable the port to access private capital in order to fund major development plans and to expand the business at home and abroad, using the port’s strong business position and expertise to develop elsewhere. The vision for the port is ambitious and should deliver benefits for stakeholders, employees, customers and the UK in general.


After many years of working with Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA) to externally verify the port’s safety management system and being the only recipient of its top award (the QSA Diamond Award) in 2010, the Port of Dover has been successful in achieving the OHSAS 18001 standard – an internationally recognized management system for occupational health and safety.

The port has have also bettered the port industry average for staff accident incident rate. Such an achievement has been very challenging historically because of the Port of Dover’s intensive operations both ashore and afloat, which see numbers of vehicles and ships that are orders of magnitude greater than any other ports. The port’s investment in modern equipment and its emphasis on introducing internationally recognized safety management systems, coupled with the development of an increasingly competent, technically and professionally focused workforce has steadily enabled this challenge to be met successfully.

Environmental management

The Port of Dover is committed to delivering a sustainable port operation that will minimize environmental impacts and ensure the service of the port’s future generations. As part of this commitment, the port has produced its first Climate Change Adaptation Report. This report carries out a risk assessment that considers how climate change could affect port operations, assets, staff and the interface with the transport network and other stakeholders.

Thanks to the work and innovation of the port’s environmental experts, the Port of Dover outperformed all other UK ports in the Carbon Reduction Commitment Energy Efficiency Scheme, the first mandatory UK Government scheme aimed at improving energy efficiency and cutting emissions in large public and private sector companies in the UK. Furthermore, the Port achieved a place in the top 3 percent of all of the organizations which participated.

Development – now and future

As well as ensuring that the port is operated to the highest safety and environmental standards, the port must also have the ability to manage passengers and traffic efficiently, providing adequate and reliable modern infrastructure and the capacity to ensure that this part of the trans-European transport network can cope with the volume of people and goods using it.

During the middle of the last decade, Dover was seeing phenomenal growth in predominantly RoRo freight traffic, peaking at over 13 percent year on year growth in 2006. This led to a major 30 year masterplanning exercise to consider long-term traffic forecasts, port capacity and the drivers of future demand. The Port of Dover was the first UK port to carry out such a far reaching and comprehensive exercise.

Terminal 2

The result of the above exercise was the proposal to build a second ferry terminal, the biggest ever single development to be proposed at Dover.

Much focus over the last few years has therefore been on developing the proposals for the £400 million (about $646 million) Terminal 2 at the port. Towards the end of 2011, the port welcomed the news from UK Government that the plans had been approved.

Since the Port of Dover began developing its plans, the world has of course been hit by a recession and a prevailing economic climate that remains extremely challenging. The approval of Terminal 2 nevertheless ensures that the port has the necessary permissions and consent in place to make that investment, when market conditions again require it. Furthermore, such an approval, which paves the way for a doubling of Dover’s ferry port capacity, the port believes is a clear sign that the UK Government expects growth in traffic through this key gateway to return to previous levels once the economy begins to recover.


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