Food supply chain needs protection in Calais crisis

By Michael Stones contact

- Last updated on GMT

Food supply chains need protection in the 'warzone' port of Calais
Food supply chains need protection in the 'warzone' port of Calais

Related tags: Supply chain

Food manufacturers should protect their supply chains from the “warzone” created by the strike action and illegal migrant crisis unfolding at the port of Calais, warns a leading risk management consultant.

Queuing lorries and cars ran the gauntlet of hundreds of illegal migrants yesterday (June 24), as they strove to board vehicles bound for Britain. The migrants sought to take advantage of disruption at the port caused by striking French ferry officials.

The chaotic scenes at the port – described by one driver as being like a “warzone” – ​underlined the need for planning, said risk consultancy firm Aon Risk Solutions.

“These events have highlighted a genuine need for scenario planning​,” said its head of business continuity practice Vince West.

‘Bottleneck causing asphyxia’

“While it is unlikely businesses can negate the entire impact of that type of event, arrangements on shipping, contractual protections and flexible commercial relationships with hauliers can be the difference between a bottleneck causing asphyxia ​[to a food manufacturing business] or allowing your company to breathe easy.”

Strike action was one of the most “singularly uninsurable perils” ​and is excluded on most insurance policies, he added.

“With memories still fresh of French truckers blockading motorways on both sides of the English Channel in 1997 and 2002, the potential for distribution to come to a standstill is real.”

Capacity can quickly become exhausted when there are few alternative freighting options. Some high-value manufacturers in markets, such as electronics, have switched to air freight, but, for many businesses the costs are prohibitive, he said. See US case study below.

Barricades of burning tyres

Striking French ferry workers blocked access to the port of Calais on Tuesday (June 23) with barricades of burning tyres.

Prime Minister David Cameron slammed as “totally unacceptable” ​scenes of hundreds of migrants trying to board lorries during the ferry workers’ strike. Significant numbers of migrants had been prevented from entering the country illegally yesterday, according to government sources.

Cameron urged the Italian authorities to implement improved documentation checks to halt the flood of migrants from Africa crossing the Mediterranean in a bid to reach northern European nations.

About 19,000 illegal attempts to cross the channel have been stopped this year – more than double the number recorded in 2014, said the Home Office.

Meanwhile, millions of pounds worth​ of fruit and vegetables are being dumped every month as customers refused deliveries tainted by stowaway migrants who clamber on board trucks at the port, warned the Freight Transport Association yesterday.

FTA international affairs manager Donald Armour confirmed the disruption could cause rising prices and even force the whole supply chain to collapse. “The UK government really must insist on greater proactive involvement by the responsible French authorities,”​ said Armour. “As more lorries are targeted, more goods are written off and the supply chain is jeopardised.”

Supply chain disruption – US style

“One of the most significant man-made supply chain disruption stories of recent years made headlines as truckers and longshoremen on America’s West coast downed tools during February​ [2015]. These are hugely impactful events. On 26 February the Financial Times reported that retailer GAP was forecasting a 13% hit related to the delayed merchandise that was sitting in West Coast ports”. 

  • Source: Vince West, Aon Risk Solutions

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