EU pledges financial support for major Port of Dunkirk project
The European Union has decided to give €550,000 in funding for the technical design studies of the project to improve access for shipping in the Western Port of Dunkirk, in order to provide optimum conditions for the berthing of the world’s largest container carriers and Capesize ore carriers in the Port of Dunkirk.
Along with all the investments planned in the Western Port, this project of Dunkerque-Port will contribute to the adaptation of harbour equipment to developments in maritime transport, and in particular the increasing size of container ships and bulk carriers. With the reconfiguration of the Flanders Container Terminal and the creation of a wharf in the Western Bulk Terminal, Dunkerque-Port will offer new capacities for handling maritime freight: container handling capacity increased by 50 percent and new capacities for transhipment of bulk cargoes.
The technical design studies will concern the adaptation of the access channel to the Atlantic Dock and of the swing circle. The aim will be to produce a precise definition of the area’s new bathymetry, the technical characteristics of the new protective embankments, the scheduling of the works and their cost. This technical design phase will culminate in the selection of the contractor who will carry out the works.
The studies, which are estimated to cost €1.09 million, were selected in the 2013 annual TEN-T call, Maritime Transport priority, to receive European funding of 50 percent. Their implementation will be monitored by the European Commission’s Innovation and Networks Executive Agency (INEA).
The technical design studies will be completed in June 2015. A public consultation prior to authorisation under the Environment Code is planned in June 2015.
The works to enlarge the swing circle and the access channel to the Atlantic Dock will begin in the last quarter of 2015 and will last for six months.
Some of the dredged sand will be recycled to protect the Port’s sea-facing structures and to reinforce the coastline, and some will be temporarily stored in predefined locations and used later in development works in the Port of Dunkirk, while the sludge will be dumped at sea.
For the works phase, a request for co-funding in the framework of the European Union’s TEN-T calls for projects was submitted to the European INEA agency on 26 February 2015. The project is also included in the 2014-2020 State-Region Plan Contract.
France’s third-ranking port, Dunkirk is well known as a port handling heavy bulk cargoes for its numerous industrial installations. It has also built its reputation in other sectors such as cross-Channel RORO traffic to Great Britain, containers, fruit, etc. Classified as the seventh port of the North Europe Range which extends from Le Havre to Hamburg, Dunkirk is also the leading French port for ore and coal imports, France’s leading port for containerised fruit imports, and the country’s second-ranking port for trade with Great Britain. For more information, please visit: www.dunkerque-port.fr
Driver shortages: Why the industry needs to be worried
While driver shortages are a global problem, with a recent survey from the International Road Transport Union suggesting that driver shortages are expected to increase by 25% year-on-year across its 23 member countries, the issue has very much made itself felt for UK businesses in recent weeks.
A perfect storm of factors, which many within the industry have been wary of, and warning about, for months, have led to a situation wherein businesses are suddenly facing significant difficulties around transporting goods to shelves on time, as well as inflated operating costs for doing so.
What’s more, the public may also see price rises as a result due to demand outmatching supply for certain product lines, which in turn brings with it the risk of customer dissatisfaction and a hit to brand and stakeholder reputation. Given that this price inflation has been speculated to hit in October, when the extended grace period on Brexit customs checks comes to an end, the worst may be yet to come.
"Steps must be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for younger drivers, which will require a joint effort from government, industry bodies, and the sector as a whole"
That said, we have already been hearing reports of service interruption due to lack of driver availability, meaning that volumes aren’t being transported, or delivered, to required schedules and lead times. A real-world example of this occurred on the weekend of 4-6 June with convenience retailer Nisa, with deliveries to Nisa outlets across the UK affected by driver shortages to its logistics provider DHL.
But where has this skills shortage stemmed from?
Supply is the primary issue. Specifically, the number of available EU drivers has decreased by up to 15,000 drivers due to Brexit alone, and this has been further exacerbated by drivers returning to their home country during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as changes to foreign exchange rates making UK a less desirable place to live and work. This, alongside the recent need to manage IR35 tax changes, has also led to significant inflation in driver and transport costs.
COVID-19 complications have also meant that there have been no HGV driver tests over the past year, meaning the expected 6,000-7,000 new drivers over the past year have not appeared. With the return of the hospitality sector we understand that this is a significant challenge with, for instance, order delivery lead times being extended.
It is little surprise, therefore, that the Road Haulage Association (RHA) earlier this month became the latest in a long line of industry spokespeople to write to the government about the driver shortage for trucks. The letter echoed the view held by much of the industry, that the cause of this issue is both multi-faceted and, at least in some aspects, long-standing.
So, many in the industry are in agreement as to the driving factors behind this crisis. But what can be done?
Simply enough, outside of businesses completely reorganising their supply chain network, external support is needed. In the short-term, the government should consider providing the industry with financial aid, and this can also be supported more widely with legislative change.
Specifically, immigration policy could be updated to place drivers on the shortage occupations list, which would go some way towards easing the burden created by foreign drivers returning to their home countries. Looking elsewhere, government should also look for ways to increase the availability of HGV driver tests after the blockage created by the coronavirus lockdowns.
Looking more long-term, steps must be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for younger drivers, which will require a joint effort from government, industry bodies, and the sector as a whole. As it stands, multiple sources suggest that the average age of truck drivers in the UK is 48, with only one in every hundred drivers under the age of 25. We must therefore do more to increase the talent pipeline coming into the industry if we are to offset more significant skills shortages further down the line.
On the back of a turbulent year for the supply chain industry, it has become increasingly clear that the long-foretold shortage of drivers is now having a tangible and, in places, crippling effect on supply chains.
Drivers, and the wider supply chain industry, have rightly been recognised for the seismic role they played in keeping the nation moving and fed over the past year under unprecedented strain. If this level of service is to continue, we must now see Government answer calls to provide the support the sector needs, and work hand-in-hand with the industry to find a solution. If we do not see concrete action to this effect soon, we are likely to be in for a turbulent few months.
Rob Wright is executive director at SCALA, a leading provider of management services for the supply chain and logistics sector