The proposed tighter new system of passport controls for entry into Europe threatens to cause long delays for travelers if potential problems are not ironed out in advance, a travel boss has warned.
Doug Bannister, chief executive of the Port of Dover, said there was a risk the “biometric” eye and fingerprint checks to be monitored by French border police would slow the passage of British and non-EU passengers and cargo onto ferries.
Eurotunnel trains and airports face similar problems as all must use the European Entry and Exit System (EES), which has been twice delayed but is expected to be rolled out from May next year.
Dover experienced 48 hours of chaos at the start of the school summer holidays in July when too few French police officers reported on duty, causing delays of many hours.
Mr Bannister, who spelled out his concerns at a media briefing in central London on Wednesday, said previous investigations by the Port of Dover – into possible disruption from Brexit – had found border control of each vehicle at the drive-through cabins would be extended by two minutes in a 17-mile queue.
Both Dover and the Folkestone Eurotunnel depot have ‘side by side’ border controls – meaning the French border is in the UK and vice versa.
Mr Bannister, asked if the Passover chaos could result in 17-mile queues next May, said: “It will have a rapid and significant adverse impact on trade and travel.”
He revealed that the port had not apologized to the French authorities for the lack of French border police to attend the passport offices over the weekend of June 22-23. to be filled in July.
“It’s not helpful to annoy the French,” he said. “As a nation, we don’t have to do that.”
Dover is the UK’s busiest seaport, with more than two million cars and 11 million passengers using it each year. Its three ferry companies – P&O, DFDS and Irish Ferries – take travelers and freight to Calais and Dunkirk.
The new passport system requires passengers to pre-register their details and then submit to a check in the presence of a French border guard.
Dover wants UK and EU authorities to allow pre-registration at home to avoid queuing before boarding, and for an IT system to be developed to allow for quick authentication.
The current assumption is that every traveler will need to authenticate their details with an iPad inserted into their vehicle. Dover believes there should be exceptions for lorry drivers and young children.
“The way the EES is designed it works well in an airport or rail terminal or where individual passengers present themselves individually in a well-lit concourse in a nice, orderly area,” said Mr. Bannister.
“No technology has been developed for a busy ferry terminal to handle passengers on dark, stormy nights.
“We have no doubt that there will be a solution. We would hope that the solution would be in place before then [the new passport system] introduced, rather than afterwards.”