Categories: Dover, ESPO, EuropePublished On: 01.08.2019854 words4.4 min read

For this edition of ESPO’s Port pro of the month, we interviewed the new CEO of the Port of Dover. In what follows, Mr Doug Bannister will tell us about his vision on the port’s future, the impact of Brexit on the port, the environmental and societal initiatives the port is taking and many other interesting topics!

(c) Port of Dover

Can you briefly present the Port of Dover? What are its main characteristics and challenges?

The Port of Dover is Europe’s busiest international roll-on roll-off ferry port, handling up to €136 billion of trade or 17% of the UK’s trade in goods. The Port processes 2.5 million lorries, 2.3 million tourist vehicles and 12 million passengers per annum. Dover is also the UK’s second busiest cruise port, welcoming over 25 cruise lines and around 200,000 guests each year. Our growing cargo business handles fresh produce, containers, project cargo, general cargo, grain and Ro-Ro traffic operating next to the world’s busiest shipping lane and on the quickest sea route to Europe. Marina and property businesses complete the portfolio.

The main challenge and characteristic is how we handle such a high volume of people and goods on a daily basis within such a small geographical footprint. In other words, what defines Dover is its unrivalled efficiency. It is a trade conveyor belt handling up to 180 kilometres of freight vehicles per day. That’s a line of trucks nearly all the way from Calais in France to Brussels in Belgium. It’s also the equivalent of being a busy international airport, handling passenger volumes on the same scale as leading regional airports across Europe.

What is your vision for the Port of Dover for the next decade?

We want to be the port of choice that sets the standard.

We already have decades of experience in operating a high intensity business. Customers and supply chains utilise Dover because of that, maximising the speed of crossing and the speed of throughput. Where I want to see us in ten years’ time is fully utilising that deep knowledge alongside technology and innovation to further improve the efficiency and effectiveness of our operation. I want to ensure that the enduring economic advantages of Dover’s geographical position are matched by 21stcentury requirements for sustainability that ultimately delivers the best outcomes for all.

The Port of Dover is very dependent on trade with the European mainland. How is the Port of Dover preparing for the UK’s intended withdrawal from the EU by 31 October? What are the main challenges you expect to be confronted with? Do you have a message for both the EU and UK policy makers as the Brexit date is approaching?

You say that the Port of Dover is very dependent on trade with the European mainland, but I would turn the statement around to say that UK and European trade is very dependent on the Port of Dover’s ferry operation. There is no substitutable capacity that can take the type and volume of goods handled by Dover. Two thirds of Irish exporters use the cross-Channel routes to get goods to Europe. Dover and Calais are the only two “core ports” categorised by the European Union as connecting the peripheral region of Ireland with mainland Europe – we both received significant EU funding to develop our facilities because of it. 2,500 trucks a day carry automotive parts between assembly lines in the European mainland and the UK via Dover.

Then we have our growing cruise business with a 35% increase in cruise calls in 2018 and our deep sea general cargo business which enjoyed a 39% increase in tonnage last year and is the focus of our current €280 million western docks development.

But returning to the ferry business, our focus has been on working to keep people and goods moving. We have worked for the past two years with ferry operators, sister ports and border agency partners to deliver our own contingency preparations for continued fluid operations within the Port’s ferry terminal. This has been based on our extensive knowledge of handling high volumes and different forms of disruption to cross-Channel traffic movements.

We have consistently advised the EU and governments on the need to keep borders open and the consequences of not doing so.

We have put significant resource in place and have had our whole organisation (including office staff) ready to work round the clock to get customers through as quickly as possible. We are prepared.

With each ship on this route able to make five round trips a day, Dover can offer a sailing frequency that other ports simply cannot. And this frequency provides the choice and flexibility that passengers and logistics businesses need. Brexit will not change geography and that applies to both sides of the negotiation. What we need is some certainty about the future trading environment in order that we can accommodate any changes in our future planning to ensure continued and long-term success.

You are currently preparing a masterplan until 2045. Is this still possible to define a strategy so far ahead given the rapidly changing world and economy? . . . . . 

. . . . . . continue reading the interview on the ESPO website here