Update on exporting seafood via the French border

Seafood shipments from the UK to Europe are affected by border closures in France. We’re providing regular updates and advice to seafood businesses.

23 December, 11am

French and UK authorities have reached an agreement to open the French border to accompanied freight and some passengers this morning (Wednesday).

All people travelling from the UK into France are required to show proof of a negative Coronavirus test taken within the previous 72 hours.

More details have been announced on the UK Government website. The important points for freight include:

  • All lorry drivers, irrespective of nationality, will require a lateral flow test. This can detect the new strain of COVID-19 and provide results in around 30 minutes, rather than the 24 hours required after a PCR test.
  • The French government will also carry out sample testing on to the UK.
  • A mass testing programme for HGV drivers stuck in the delays near Dover is underway at Manston Airport and the M20.

There have been calls for the Government to prioritise testing drivers accompanying highly perishable goods such as seafood. It is unclear right now whether this will happen.

Lorry drivers are urged NOT to make their way to Kent until further notice to alleviate congestion. Once congestion has cleared, it’s strongly recommended that drivers get tested at the point of departure. The exact details on how drivers can access tests at the point of departure isn't clear yet. We'll update when we know more. 

The UK Government has also updated its guidance for HGV operators and drivers on crossing an international border safely and temporary relaxation of driver hours. We’ve provided direct links below:

Guidance for HGV operators and drivers crossing an international border

Temporary relaxations of drivers hours rules and guidance


 

22 December, 11am 

The French border is still closed to people come from the UK including accompanied freight. Reports from the BBC this morning suggest that the UK and French prime ministers have agreed to find a way open the border on Wednesday. The details should be published later today. 

This is having a devastating impact on seafood suppliers in the UK and despite efforts to find a solution, it is unlikely that the pre-Christmas trade will recover. Orders have been cancelled and some operators have halted production because delivery before Christmas can’t be guaranteed. 

There are important points to note:  

  • In December 2019, seafood worth £130m was exported to Europe so this should be an incredibly busy period for our seafood sector.  
  • Much of the high value seafood is sold fresh so it is extremely perishable. This means there is no scope for any delays and alternative travel routes are not always feasible because they can increase the freight time.  
  • There is unaccompanied freight options but this doesn't help the freight already caught in the delays in Kent. 
  • Live shellfish exporters have the additional challenge of dealing with live animals and the associated welfare complications that such delays bring.   
  • Unfortunately, insurance is unlikely to cover losses from product that has been caught up in the delays.  

We’ll share more updates as we get them, but a reminder of some helpful websites and social media accounts to follow:  


 

21 December, 11am 

France closed its border to people from the UK 11pm on Sunday 20 December for 48 hours. This is due to concerns around a new variant of Covid-19 in the South East of England and the increased risk of transmission.  

Europe is an important market for some of our high value UK seafood, including shellfish which is exported live and highly perishable. We know many seafood businesses are affected. 

We are in contact with the UK Government and various trade associations and we will share any updates as soon as we get them.  

Here is what we currently know: 

  • The port of Dover and the Channel Tunnel are currently closed to people intending to leave the UK. The border is still open coming from France to the UK.  
  • The closure affects accompanied freight only. This means if it’s in a lorry with a driver 
  • Freight on unaccompanied containers or lorry trailers on their own can still be moved.  
  • The UK Government has convened a COBRA meeting this morning to discuss how to manage the situation.  

If your shipment is caught up in the delays, we recommended you: 

1. Contact your haulier company in the first instance. They may have contingency plans in place such as switching to unaccompanied freight or alternative routes.  

2. Check the websites of the affected ports for the most relevant and accurate updates. This is a fast moving situation. We will post updates here but we also recommend you follow: 

3. Check in with your insurance company.

If you can, please avoid sending any freight to the affected ports until the situation changes.