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20-mile queues at Dover as customs and P&O cause chaos

The Port of Dover has experienced queues over 20 miles long this week due to problems with the Goods Vehicle Movement Service (GVMS) and the P&O Ferries fallout.

Over 2000 vehicles have been queuing at any one time along a 23-mile stretch of the M20 in Kent, which has been closed to accommodate the additional vehicles in the area.

The queue has caused severe disruptions to traffic in the surrounding area, and the A20 Roundhill Tunnel has been closed to prevent vehicles from jumping the queue.

Delays caused by the GVMS system

Users of the Goods Vehicle Movement Service started reporting issues on Wednesday 30th March, and the system has been unavailable for use since the following day.

The GVMS system was originally taken offline during an update to the Customs Handling of Import and Export Freight (CHIEF) system, but experienced issues once it had been rebooted.

Contingency measures have been put in place by HMRC, which has allowed traders and cargo movers to cross the border with alternative evidence of a customs declaration.

GVMS is currently expected to be online on Monday 11th April; however, traders have reportedly been notified of 2 previous dates for the system to be online, which have passed without resolution.

Delays from the P&O Ferries fallout

On Thursday 17th March, P&O sacked 800 of their employees without notice to replace them with agency staff, drawing a lot of attention from the media.

The impact that this has had on their operation, with several sailings cancelled and other vessels unable to sail due to errors in staff paperwork, has reduced the amount of ferry availability in Dover.

The reduced number of sailings, coupled with the increase in holidaymakers ahead of Easter and delays from the GVMS checks going down, has resulted in bottlenecks for ferry operators as vessels are full and paperwork is taking longer to process.

Concerns over capacity to handle border checks in Dover

The UK Government are considering the delay of to the upcoming Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) checks, which are due to be rolled out in July. 
This is due to concern over the Port of Dover’s capacity to manage SPS checks alongside the new biometric testing that will be required at EU borders from September. Currently, French customs do not have the systems in place for this at the juxtaposed border controls at the port.
The need to upgrade infrastructure for SPS checks and biometric testing within a few months, along with contingencies for periods such as this one with system failure, has led to a direct appeal from Dover’s CEO, Doug Bannister, to directly appeal to the UK Government to reach a solution ASAP.

However, there has been no indication on whether this will happen, so you should continue to expect the changes to food imports from July.

Could you be affected by the delays from GVMS or P&O?

If you want to avoid delays from the GVMS or P&O chaos at Dover, we recommend getting to the port earlier than you had planned. If you would like assistance with customs clearancecontact one of our experts for more information.

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