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The strange journey from shipping reporter to customer

The strange journey from shipping reporter to customer
Perspective is a curious thing. Over the years, when properly equipped with security pass, notebook, pen and head full of questions, I have negotiated my way around the most contorted port road layouts while avoiding ferociously driven terminal equipment, located meeting rooms in locations more akin to abandoned mobile homes and even, sometimes, managed to find the right door.

So why is it that everything changes when I move across to the passenger seat and we set off for a family trip that involves a ferry journey? Suddenly, it’s all rather intimidating.

Those responsible for ferry port road layouts, and particularly those making decisions on signposting, please take note: when you are not a “working part” of the port but merely trying to work out where you are meant to be, even locating the port entrance can be confusing.  Once inside, being confronted with poor and last-minute signage, and a total tangle of roads and half-there white lines leading to a frankly illogical layout of seemingly hundreds of lane numbers can be pretty daunting – especially when you are generally being hounded along by an impatient HGV-driving ‘regular’ behind you.

And so it was, Dover to Calais, last week.  I was, truth be told, rather optimistic this time. In May, Dover Harbour Board (DHB) issued a press release stating: “Good progress is being made at the Port of Dover on its multi-million pound Traffic Management Improvement (TMI) project as the port works to ensure that it is providing its customers with excellent service within a world-class port facility.”

While I applaud the sentiments, I also noted, when re-reading the press release later, that the TMI project is not due to be completed until 2015. Well, they say things have to get worse before they get better.

This year Dover is celebrating its 60th anniversary as a ferry terminal; the harbour board has embarked on an investment programme totalling £85m that will “transform our port and the levels of customer service we can offer”.

The port handles up to 160 kms of trucks a day and says TMI will add a level of resilience through enhanced operational flexibility and additional capacity, thereby reducing congestion on the road network outside.

“We are delighted with the overall progress being made, and in particular the way in which we are constantly refining and improving how we deliver TMI and reducing the impact [of the works] on our customers,” said DHB chief operating officer Tim Waggott. “Once complete, this project will greatly benefit our port, our customers and our community.”

I promise, dear readers, to report back in 2015.

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