On August 11, the port of Calais drew up its traditional half-year report. A long-awaited moment after two years disrupted by Covid and Brexit, which highlighted good news: tourism-related traffic is back. Indeed, despite a start to the year still marked by health restrictions, the number of passengers crossing the Channel from or to Calais more than doubled compared to the first half of 2021.
Thus, 2,603,168 travelers have been registered since 1uh January, compared to 1,170,593 for the same period in 2021 (+122%). The month of July alone saw its attendance increased to 860,940 (+291%). Passenger vehicle traffic logically followed the same trend with 453,710 movements on 1uh half of 2022 (and 155,580 for the month of July alone), an increase of 521% compared to 2021 (72,989 vehicles).
The fret marks the pace a little
These considerable increases are enough to make port players smile. Nevertheless, the level of tourist traffic has not yet returned to that of 2019. The increase only makes up for 75% of the loss in tourist traffic compared to July 2019. ‘Arrest since the start of the health crisis, has also begun a recovery with 13,057 registered units, but remains confronted with the reluctance, among others of schools.
The recent massive waits at the Port of Dover could also darken the picture. The leaders of Calais have therefore announced that they have anticipated this situation in view of the massive returns of the British to their island, scheduled for August. More human and material resources will be made available to facilitate the return of tourists leaving French soil. It is the controlled biometric mobiles that save precious time.
Freight traffic, for its part, is down slightly. Over the first seven months of the year, heavy goods vehicle traffic fell by 1.8%, or 16,486 crossings. And it is particularly marked in July with only 129,489 units recorded against 143,662 in July 2021 (-10%). The leaders of the port explain it in particular by the cessation of activity for several months of the largest player on the Calais-Dover line, P&O. This is gradually returning to regular rotations at 100%.
During the same period, the activity of the rail motorways jumped, with an increase of more than 37% compared to 2021. This represents a doubling of activity compared to 2019. The unaccompanied becomes a safe bet with more than 32,000 trailers passing through the port of Calais over half a year (+50%).
A new cross-Channel in Boulogne?
Overall positive, these results should relaunch the port after the painful 2020-2021 parenthesis. “We must ignore the achievements and continue to look to the future”, said Benoît Rochet. Appointed general manager of the port, the latter does not forget either the importance of the place Boulogne. Of course, fishing remains, with the auction and the Capécure area, a strong axis of development. “The port has everything to succeed and the activity of selling fish at the auction must be strengthened and increased”, comments the director.
But other projects are under study, to accentuate the synergies between Boulogne and Calais. In particular, negotiations are going well with several companies for projects that could see the arrival of a new cross-Channel from Boulogne-sur-Mer. The port already has all the infrastructure to accommodate it (Hub Port, railway, etc.). All that’s missing is the ferry, which could be next-generation, running on biofuel or electric hybrid. Société d’exploitation des ports du Détroit intends to make every effort to consolidate its leading position and its good financial health in the face of its competitor Eurotunnel.