On 18 October 2018 the Industry and Parliament Trust organised a visit for a delegation of cross-party parliamentarians to the Port of Dover. A total of nine parliamentarians attended the visit, which was part of a wider educating programme, to further their knowledge of the scale of the Port, its plans for developing infrastructure, how it will assist supporting local employment and regeneration, and the potential impact Brexit will have on its operations.
During the visit the group learnt that although the Port handles £122bn, which equates to 17% of the UK’s trade in goods, it is not being complacent about the future and is currently investing £250m to revive Dover’s Western Docks. The purpose of this project, officially named Dover Western Docks Revival, is to deliver growth, long-term capacity and regeneration for the Port and Dover’s core businesses.
The Port of Dover is Europe’s busiest international ferry port and at peak times it will process 180km of freight traffic as well as up to 120 ferry movements per day. A highlight of touring the Docks was visiting the Terminal Control for a bird’s eye view of land-side operations and Port Control for marine-side operations.
After seeing the operation in motion Philip Hollobone, MP for Kettering described the operation as having a “well-co-ordinated, clockwork-like precision” whilst Lord Bradshaw remarked that “the visit was most illuminating. I had not realised how intensive the operation of the port was. There is so little time to spare in the whole operation.”
Due to the non-stop, free-flowing and international nature of their trade, Brexit is a key issue for the Port and any possible delays in their supply chain could result in significant challenges to their logistical operation. Bridget Phillipson, MP for Houghton and Sunderland South commented that the visit was particularly insightful because she was able to “speak to staff and understand the issues relating to Brexit” and Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town thought visiting the Port “was the clearest possible demonstration of the challenges a No Deal Brexit would cause.”
Summarising his learning experiences at the Port of Dover, Philip Hollobone, MP for Kettering, said,“The port itself is only one square mile in area and we were given a close-up tour of both the harbour management and dock operations. With trade projected to expand 40% by 2030, roll-on roll-off ferry sailings should increase from 60 a day to 100, yet the port is confident it can handle the extra traffic. This is a vital trade artery for the UK and it was evident from our visit that it is well organised and ready for expansion.”
Alan Brown, MP for Kilmarnock and Loudoun, also musing about what he took away from the vist, commented, "I was delighted to visit the Port of Dover with the IPT. As SNP Spokesperson for Transport it was a fantastic opportunity to view the operations at the port and speak directly to those responsible for the day to day operations. It was fascinating to see how many ferries and lorries come and go in a short period of time. This also illustrated the risks associated with Brexit and the need for arrangements that do not impact on the “just in time” non-stop through flow of lorries. On this we got an understanding of the issues of border checks, the impact on local infrastructure and also the investment the UK Government should be making at present to facilitate free movement of traffic around Dover."