Cost-conscious hauliers shun tunnel for ferry
Will save even on small sums to compete...
Changes in the world economy and the pressure to keep consumer costs down are driving freight operators to switch to ferries from the Channel Tunnel, according to the Port of Dover.
Interviews with industry bosses from more than 40 haulage organisations across Europe show that some companies will change their selected delivery route for a modest saving of less than £5 if they can, simply to compete on price.
“Freight operators tell us that speed and price are the only determining factors in choosing their transport routes,” says Bob Goldfield, chief executive of the Port of Dover. “Time-sensitive goods – for instance perishable, high-value foods, or deliveries that are already overdue – tends to be sent via the tunnel. But the lower cost of ferry freight attracts those delivering high-volume, commodity goods.
“As the UK economy moves into recession, we would expect the volume of HGVs through the port to shrink at the same rate. However, while the economy shrank by 1.5 per cent in the last three months of 2008, overall numbers of lorries through Dover fell by 2.5 per cent over the whole year.
“The fire in the tunnel diverted all modes of traffic on to the ferries, boosting ferry freight by 34 per cent initially. Even now, as the tunnel returns to its pre-fire capacity, haulage companies are sticking with sea crossings as a means to keeping costs under control.”
During 2008, more than 2.3million HGVs passed through the port, carrying goods with an estimated value of between £46 billion and £55 billion. The port authority is currently building a short link road to take freight directly from the port on to the main exit roads out of Dover. It is also pressing ahead with plans for a second ferry terminal within the existing harbour, set to double capacity.
“Long-term, cross-channel freight volumes will grow, and when the UK economy moves back out of recession, we have to be ready to allow it to flourish,” says Bob Goldfield.