The UK is facing an “absolute catastrophe” if it does not sort out a “frictionless and seamless” border at Dover and other ports, the shipping industry has warned.
The UK Chamber of Shipping, which represents more than 170 freight ship, tanker and cruise liner companies, has called on governments across Europe to urgently grasp the challenge, arguing that a problem for the UK will also be a problem for ports in Holland, Belgium, France and Ireland.
“I think the UK government gets it, but I am not so sure other countries do,” said Guy Platten, the chief executive officer.
“It is a massive problem that we need to get solved. It is in the political gift to have a frictionless or not have a frictionless border. It is a human construct,” he said.
At a media briefing on Wednesday, the chamber said the issue was not the prospect of tariffs being introduced if the UK quits the European customs union as these could be processed electronically. It was, rather, the question of customs checks on either side of the borders between the UK and the continent, and the UK and Ireland.
He said Dublin would probably grind to a halt if customs checks were introduced at Dublin Port or Holyhead in north Wales, which handles 400,000 trucks every year delivering food and other goods to shops and suppliers in the UK and the continent.
The freight and haulage industry and Eurotunnel warned earlier this year that a port such as Dover, the busiest truck port in the UK, could face gridlock of up to 30 miles if customs checks were introduced after the UK left the European union.
The port handles 2.6m trucks a year while Eurotunnel caters for another 1.6m a year at its Le Shuttle gateway a few miles inland.