Critical incident declared at the Port of Dover over five-hour queues

Jul 22, 2022

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Officials at the Port of Dover have declared a critical incident this morning following major traffic queues and issues getting passengers onto ferries.

Stretching up to a reported 10 miles on the M20, traffic jams had reached such unprecedented levels in the area that authorities at the busy Kent harbour have asked people not to travel.

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This will not only heap further worry on those already caught up in the tailback but spark major concern for families booked to catch a ferry to the continent for the school summer holidays.

P&O Ferries, which has not been without its own struggles this year, has said that anyone who misses their ferry will be put on the next available one once the gridlock has eased.

“Please be aware that there is heavy traffic at border control in the port of Dover. If you are booked to travel today please allow at least 6hrs to clear all security checks,” read a statement by the operator. “Rest assured, if you miss your sailing, you’ll be on the first available once at check-in.”

Related: Passport Office reveals 55,000 UK passport applications are heavily delayed

Quite whether these timetables will meet demand as cars continue to pile into the port, however, remains to be seen.

A spokesperson for the Port of Dover says it has been “deeply frustrated that the resource at the French border overnight and early this morning has been woefully inadequate to meet our predicted demand.”

(Photo courtesy of P&O Ferries)

Port bosses say this situation should have been avoided after it had worked “so hard in good faith” with the government and local partners over many months to prepare for the hectic summer getaways.

There is now, it added, a new team of “passenger champions to be on hand and assist customers at the port” to help but they’re aware this is akin to putting a plaster on a broken leg. “We know that resource is finite, but the popularity of Dover is not a surprise.”

“Regrettably, the Police Aux Frontieres (PAF) resource has been insufficient and has fallen far short of what is required to ensure a smooth first weekend of the peak summer getaway period.”

Putting it more bluntly, the port’s chief executive, Doug Bannister told Sky News, “The cause of it is French immigration controls — this is causing major disruption. French border controls are not properly staffed.”

While officials remain tight-lipped on using the B-word, it appears likely for those trapped in their cars that Brexit among other pandemic-related woes has certainly had some impact on the bottlenecking.

“Since Brexit it’s been necessary to have every single passport stamped at Dover, and as a result of that everything takes much longer,” The Independent’s Travel correspondent Simon Calder told ITV’s Good Morning Britain.

Arguably the warning signs were already there for ferry bosses. Mile-long queues of Calais-bound lorries have been a familiar sight in the west of Dover this year.

Since the U.K’s departure from the European Union, 2022, heavy goods vehicles heading to the EU have had to use the Goods Vehicle Movement System (GVMS), which, according to the BBC, now takes 15 minutes per vehicle to process the paperwork. Much longer than the previous system.

Related: Airline bosses blame Brexit for UK flight chaos, are they right?

I have a booking AT DOVER, what can I do?

If you’ve already booked tickets for a P&O ferry at the Port of Dover this week, keep an eye on the timetable and updates from the operator’s social media accounts, including Twitter.

The operator says it expects this to continue over the weekend, so plan accordingly.

If you do risk the chaos at the port, P&O have said they will board customers on the next available ferry if they miss their original one.

Can I claim reimbursement?

Despite the fact the port has declared a critical incident, P&O still claims its ferries are running from Dover with only minor cancellations and believes all passengers will still be catered for.

As such, reimbursement won’t be given unless you have to wait overnight.

“If a delay requires a stay of one or more nights in order to travel on the next available sailing you shall be entitled to one of the following:

  • ‘Reimbursement for up to three nights’ accommodation (limited to €80 per person per night, or per room (whichever is the lesser)) and transport between the port and the accommodation, on submission of applicable receipts or, if using your own vehicle, in accordance with the current P&O Ferries mileage policy.’
  •  ‘Free transport between your home and the port, limited to a maximum of €20 per person or per car (whichever is the lesser), on submission of applicable receipts or, if using your own vehicle, in accordance with the current P&O Ferries mileage policy.’

We’ve reached out to ask the operator if they will provide refunds to those who adhere to the critical warnings and stay away from the port.

Featured photo by Photo by DeAgostini/Getty Images.

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