The Port of Calais is reopening after continued labor actions. In Britain, police closed off motorway sections while more than 3,000 trucks waited to board ships to France, where ferry workers blocked the port.
After labor actions disrupted cross-Channel traffic for days - and won workers a date with France's Transportation Ministry - a ferry union announced on Wednesday that it would allow the Port of Calais to reopen at 8 p.m. local time (1800 UTC). The workers are protesting a pending business to sell two MyFerryLink boats to a Danish company, a deal that could kill 400 jobs in Calais.
The strikes, which began last week, mostly disrupted traffic in the Calais area, stopping commercial and passenger trains from entering the Eurotunnel and allowing some of the migrants whose Calais camps have become right-wing talking points on both sides of the Channel to sneak onto Britain-bound lorries.
The latest actions, however, have also left lorries parked on a normally zipping highway in the south of England, connecting Dover to the M25 motorway encircling London.
"Due to the disruption at French ports, HGVs (heavy goods vehicles) destined for Port of Dover and Eurotunnel terminals are being 'stacked' on the M20," the Kent police force announced in a statement.
"Operation Stack" saw a capacity 2,300 trucks clog one motorway section, with a second section holding around half that number. Dover's local MP Charlie Elphicke, a Conservative, said the motorway blockages were isolating his constituents as officials urged noncommercial vehicles to avoid the main motorway. The coast guard distributed 5,000 bottles of water and 750 meals to drivers who waited hours in sweltering temperatures.
"We sincerely regret the impact to the traveling public, freight and the Dover community of a situation that is beyond our control," a British port spokesman said on Wednesday. "We will continue to monitor the situation closely in liaison with our ferry partners and the Port of Calais in order to resume normal operations as soon as possible," he added.
French and British officials have frequently sparred over Calais. On Wednesday, Prime Minister David Cameron spoke to French President Francois Hollande about the problem. Cameron, who has sought to renegotiate the terms of the UK's EU membership, has announced increased controls to find migrants who might have stowed away in vehicles in the Calais jam-ups, and has also called the labor actions "totally unacceptable."
On Wednesday, however, his concerns appeared a bit more immediate: "We are making sure we are doing all we can to get Calais back open," Cameron's spokeswoman said.
British Road Haulage Association boss Richard Burnett took a by-any-means-necessary approach to the "absolute mayhem": "The UK and French governments must acknowledge their responsibilities to all Port of Calais users, move in and act. If this means deployment of the armed forces, then so be it."
mkg/msh (Reuters, AFP)