Clay Maitland

On a quest for quality in shipping

Not so flexible

Posted on | August 3, 2015 | 1 Comment

When the tunnel under the English Channel looked like being excavated the threatened ferry companies liked to portray themselves as the travellers “flexible” friends as opposed to the “fixed link” that was stuck for ever in one place.

With the French ferry port of Calais under siege from mobs ( we must not call them, as did the UK Prime Minister “swarms”) of desperate migrants and the Eurotunnel being blocked by furious bands of redundant French ferry workers, it seems that the ferries are not quite as flexible as we would like them to be. The County of Kent is in virtual gridlock with queues of trucks trying to get across the Channel, with 25 mile tailbacks, but sadly, all calls for the ferries to use alternative ports fall on deaf ears these days.

When ferries were smaller and, dare we suggest, rather more nimble, chaos at Calais (which was not unknown) would be the signal for the ferries to switch to Zeebrugge, Ostend or Dunkirk, so the hauliers could at least keep moving. Sadly, while the ferries on the shortest route are arguably some of the world’s most efficient, loading and discharging over double ramps at astonishing speed, the monster ships, which depend on shore ramps cannot be easily switched to other ports. The old saying “fog in the Channel – Continent cut off” may have a gloomy resonance this summer. If you live in the South of England, better to stay at home.

But if you are trying to run a ferry company across this busy stretch of water, the “migrant crisis” is very real, with desperate stowaways willing to risk life and limb trying to get aboard in trucks or cars and menacing operations in a dozen different ways.


One Response to “Not so flexible”

  1. Bob Curt
    April 20th, 2016 @ 5:44 pm

    Clay..somehow your blog starting showing up on my inbox. I agree with your focus on safety and the growth of the US Merchant Marine. There are several things that have given us problems in these regards.
    On safety, when we have 40 year old ships with open, man-powered lifeboats we cannot claim to be world class when it comes to safety. El Faro was not a world class ship.
    On growth, this is closely tied into the safety issue. The US has one of the oldest merchant fleets in the world. While one cannot prove that age is a problem vis-a-vis safety, no one can claim that 40 year old ships with open life boats with no motors are safer than new ships with self propelled, self launching enclosed lifeboats.
    As long as the Jones Act requires ships to be built in the US the US flag fleet will continue to die. Ships are the ONLY form of transport that need to be built in the US..not airplanes, trucks, locomotives or rail cars.

Leave a Reply