Hard Brexit's port pressure: Shipping giant DFDS takes on extra land as it prepares for queuing lorries

By Grimsby Telegraph | Posted: 18 Jul 2018

SHIPPING giant DFDS Seaways has increased its footprint on Port of Immingham by nearly 10 per cent as it takes proactive steps ahead of a potential hard Brexit.

The company is one of the largest roll-on roll-off operators in Europe, with daily sailings across the North Sea bringing food, consumer goods, manufacturing components and materials to the UK, while playing just as vital a role for UK exports.

Headquartered on the docks, with 600 employees, a further 20 acres of land has been committed to in a deal with Associated British Ports, as it looks at the potential impact border controls could have on the movement of the hundreds of North Sea-crossing lorries a day.

Andrew Byrne, managing director, said: “The business case was initially for growth, but contingent land to cater for slower moving traffic became a key driver for the investment as the Brexit impacts became clearer.”

The land is split with 15 acres at the inner terminal by the lock-controlled dock, and five acres on the riverside, where the outer harbour terminal significantly ramped up capacity – and vessel size capability – when it opened in 2006.

The confirmation comes after he spelled out the work being undertaken after he succeeded Sean Potter at Nordic House earlier this year.

This week he highlighted the difficulties a hard Brexit would deliver to the gates of the UK to the nation – from Immingham – outlining how just the smallest of delays for trucks could cause serious issues for Britain’s leading gateway.

Mr Byrne welcomed Channel Four News’ Siobhan Kennedy to the port, providing an insight into what tighter customs controls could bring.

Taking the broadcast journalist on a tour of the huge terminal, where there has been huge investment since the turn of the millennium, he put any additional paperwork, checks or other processes into perspective. He said: “These vessels carry 4.5 miles of cargo all in trailers, it is a friction free constant movement of goods.

“We could get 250 trailers on to a vessel, a two minute delay is 500 minutes of delay. Often we empty and load the vessel in three hours, that is more than that time would take, it would bring the operation to a stop fairly quickly.”

Smart scanning technology is part of the proposal, but even that adds key seconds, and lots more when it comes to palletised loads with several destinations. 

Andrew Byrne is interviewed by Siobhan Kennedy.

​Mr Byrne said: “I know lots of our customers and lots of supply chain members are planning for a hard Brexit so it would be foolish for us not to.

“We have already spent quite a lot of time and money on contingency for difficult exits, we have additional land, and have looked at additional processes and manpower. It does get very difficult.

“We have 600 employees here, they are asking what does it mean for us as accompany, what does it mean to my employment?”

Underlining how they have been reassured, with Britain an island nation in need of port operations - and potentially more so - he is in favour of the Chequers thrashed-out White Paper that saw high profile resignations, as it granted free movement of goods. However, with Brexit Secretary David Davis and Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson stepping down, he said: “I think we need some very effective salesmen to make that work.”

A former Cleethorpes schoolboy, Mr Byrne returned to DFDS after moving from shipping to rail logistics.

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