Great team effort despite adversity

By Wayne Bullen, Freight Sales Director.

As highlighted by Søren and Peder, it was great to see the strong freight performance in all areas of our business during December, primarily as a result of stockpiling as the Brexit transition period came to an end. In addition to this and looking back on a very turbulent year (with challenges we are all too familiar with), I am very proud to say that on the Channel we finished the year shipping a total of almost 1.2 million freight vehicles, which was 6,000 units ahead of our 2019 performance.

Like many colleagues within DFDS and despite the various challenges I do not recall a single day where our focus and determination were anything less than 100% and now we can clearly see the end results of our combined efforts. I felt it appropriate to take this opportunity to thank the Freight Sales, Customer Service, Operations and Onboard Teams for their essential contribution towards this achievement.

It goes without saying that this success does not compensate for the fall in passengers which was of course an unfortunate consequence of Covid-19 but with the same level of commitment, passion and effort we will achieve optimum results during 2021 and combine this with the hopeful recovery of the important passenger trade to get back to where we all deserve to be.

Visby welcomes first guests

Our new Ireland-France route is based on the transport of driver accompanied trailers. The newly chartered ferry M/S Visby can, with her 1,800 lane metres and 92 cabins with private facilities, accommodate up to 120 trucks, trailers, and drivers.

For Visby’s very first roundtrip on Rosslare-Dunkerque, DFDS had prepared gift bags for the first 10 drivers to boardThe gift bags that were delivered to the drivers cabins contained a mixture of DFDS branded goods from caps, travel mugs, key rings and face covering etc. 

“We had the pleasure of meeting a number of enthusiastic ROADKINGS (DFDS’ special driver service concept) onboard our first departure from Dunkerque to Rosslare, including Patrick O’Sullivan from B. Dillon International Transport LTD. Patrick was extremely excited about our new that will cut his travel time from Ireland to Belgium from 5 days to 3 days. We should expect to see him onboard up to twice a week,” says Steve Garner, Head of Customer Experience. 


Steve Garner, Head of Customer Experience, BU Channel (right), and Patrick O’Sullivan from B. Dillon International Transport LTD.

Praising the customer service and accommodation

“Patrick had a great experience with our service. He found that the check-in and loading experience in Dunkerque was seamless and stress free, and that DFDS’ port personnel were friendly, professional and informative. He was also impressed with the warm welcome and meet & greet from our crew. When he arrived in the passenger accommodation, the information provided at Guest Information and the new welcome onboard letter which explained the mealtimes and service provided.


Laura Charlton, Customer Experience Specialist, was ready to answer questions if needed. She also presented Patrick with the gift bag.

He also liked that he was escorted to his cabin by a member of the crew and was extremely impressed with the onboard food. As he explained, wet food is extremely important for a driver and the Irish Stew was perfect for a good evening meal. He was equally pleased with the variety and quality breakfast, lunch and dinner on day two. 

“He only missed some cereals and Irish Jams onboard for his breakfast, and as Rob Bately from the project team and crew already acted on this, we will be able to meet his needs next time he travels with us,” says Steve. 

Patrick found the onboard areas comfortable and perfect to relax and chat with other drivers during the crossing. 

“I get to meet and spend time with a lot of our wonderful customers, but Patrick really was a superstar, his enthusiasm and feedback regarding our new service was extremely encouraging and I really do hope I have the opportunity of meeting him onboard again. To thank Patrick for his valuable feedback we presented him with a DFDS fleece, cap and a bag full of DFDS treats.”


M/S Visby in Dunkerque.

Inside BU Channel 

How a new BU head experienced a Christmas crisis 

By Filip Hermann, Vice President & Head of BU Channel.

BU Channel is a busy place. There is nothing we haven’t seen, from exhausted migrants hiding in trailers to armed robbers on the run. If not daily then at least on a weekly basis, we experience something unusual. However, this Christmas was extraordinary by all standards. 

Leading up to Christmas, we were experiencing freight volumes like never before. Christmas is always busy because of the seasonal peak. But this year Brexit was looming only a few days after Christmas leading to massive stockpiling, extensive media coverage and long queuein Dover as well as in France. In fact, we carried 35% more trailers on the Dover routes and 50% more trailers on Dieppe-Newhaven route compared to December 2019. 

December was also an unusual month in other terms. Corona restrictions in the UK was tightened on December 2 because of a mutant strain of COVID-19 found in Kent, where Dover is located. As the new mutant strain continued to spread, we decided to close the Whitfield office completely (again) and strengthen health precautions. 

Despite these unusual and concerning circumstances, a tired and exhausted organisation and the management team prepared for a well-deserved Christmas day – the only day of the year where the ports are closed, and we don’t operate 24 hours a day. But then the Christmas crisis began. 

 

December 20 

The day started like the previous day with volumes building up in the ports already early in the morning. Truck drivers in Dover, anxious to get back to the Continent to spend Christmas with their families and their colleagues on the French side, were waiting to deliver the last Christmas food and other goods to the warehouses in the UK. 

But suddenly everything changes. The French government announces a 48-hour ban on entry to France from the UK for passengers as well as freight drivers. The surprising and disrupting announcement catches everyone by surprise and causes a rush to the Port of Dover. Everybody wants to get on the last vessels out of the UKReliable information is difficult to obtain because neither local nor national authorities know exactly what is going on. The last vessel for Dunkerque and Calais disembarks shortly before midnight but because of a local interpretation of the ban we unfortunately have to disembark all our customers in Newhaven again before everything turns quiet. 

 

December 21 

Traffic has been building up overnight. More trucks have arrived at the entrance to the ports and the queues are now many kilometres long. We can still ship trucks from France to the UK, but hauliers are concerned about stranding their trucks in UK because of the travel restrictions. Nobody knows how long the ban will last. We are also able to send unaccompanied trailers to France, but the queues outside the ports make it difficult for our customers to drop the trailers off and to pick them up. Politicians are working around the clock to solve this diplomatic and potentially humanitarian crisis. 

 

December 22 

Finally some good news. The band on freight drivers will be lifted at midnight if proof of a negative COVID-19 test can be presented. But how do you test thousands of drivers parked on the roads all over Kent? Manston airport turns out to be the UK governments solution. Testers from all over the country arrives to the area and prepare themselves for a difficult job over the next couple of days. We were told testing would start the next day at 6am. We prepare for a busy Christmas, but we have enough time and capacity to clear everything before the port closes on Christmas day. Or so we thought. 

 

December 23 

It’s 6am but nothing happens. No truck drivers with negative tests show up at Port of Dover. In fact, the roads are so gridlocked that it’s impossible to get anywhere near the port. The day shift has to take the train to work and walk the last couple of miles. The office manager has to get police escort only to return home again. Supplies cannot get to the port either raising concerns about us having enough food onboard. Tension starts rising at the entrance. Civil disobedience breaks out and the police has to remove trucks from the roads to make access for the few drivers that have already been tested. 

 
Picture of the entrance to port of Dover on December 23 

But progress is slow. More and more trucks try to make it to Manston airport to get tested, but that only gridlocks the roads even more. At the same time, we are not able to disembark the vessels from France in Dover anymore because the exit from the port is blocked by angry and tired truck drivers who thought they were first in line but now have to go back in the queue to get tested. Only with the help of our suppliers do we manage to get our supply chain for food for the vessels up and running again. This time on the French side. 


Aerial photo of trailers waiting to get tested at Manston airport 

By the end of the day, when we tally the numbers of trailers we have sent to France, we can’t count to more than 150. A disaster for us and for the thousands of truck drivers stuck in their vehicles on the third day. 

 

December 24 

Traffic starts to flow a bit better but it’s still slow and the ships are not full. The majority of the approx. 10.000 trucks are still waiting to go home and have by now realized that they will be spending Christmas at a deserted airport in Kent. 

The management team discusses the possibility of operating on Christmas day due to this extraordinary event. It would be the first time in history and something that would require many different stakeholders to collaborate and rely on each other. Political pressure increases from all sides. Our own CEO even receives a personal request from Audina Valean, the European Commissioner for Transport and I have several calls with the UK government. There is a lot of opposite information flowing around on social media from various politicians but around noon we finally get the official confirmation from the Department of Transport that all the relevant authorities will remain operational on Christmas day. 

With short notice, the BU Channel leadership team initiates an intense campaign to find approx. 400 volunteers among our already tired and exhausted colleagues to carry out this extraordinary operation on Christmas day. At a time where the political uncertainty makes their situation just as unpredictable and exposed as the drivers’. We quickly find enough hard-working colleagues who are ready to sacrifice their own Christmas for the wellbeing of our customers. It’s not longer a question of Christmas or not – it’s a humanitarian crisis. 

 

December 25 

Crew and onshore colleagues meet in to work on Christmas morning and the first sailing departs full at 8am. Drivers are extremely happy for the chance to finally go home and show their appreciation to our colleagues in the check-in booths and on board the vessels. It’s great to see the smiles on their faces. This day will be remembered for a long time on BU Channel. 

 

December 26 

Normal operations resume but the queues are still long. At the end of the day, we are finally able to clear most of the backlog from Manston and the roads in Kent. Everybody is relieved and the praises start coming in from all sides. We get official emails from Ports and other authorities and even a personal DFDS greeting and thank you video from the UK minister of Transport. 

 

What did I learn? 

First, I learned that BU Channel is an amazing organization. From the leadership team that worked tirelessly through Christmas to the staff in the check-in booths and the crew onboard that stood up to the challenge when asked to help the truck drivers home for Christmas and solve the pending humanitarian crisis. Second, I learned that you should be careful about using the word “usually” in the same sentence as BU Channel. I was told Christmas was the quietest time of the year. But things are never as they used to be when you transport more than a million trucks and five times that number of passengers per year. Finally, I learned how important the work that we do in BU Channel is to the UK. It was amazing to see that when all external disasters hit us simultaneously on the one day we were not supposed to operate, everything grinded to a hold. Prime ministers got on their phones with presidents to get the wheels turning again. Civil disobedience breaks out and the military is deployed. I can’t wait to see what BU Channel has in store for me in 2021 and beyond. Tomorrow is the first day post-Brexit and the day we start our new route to Ireland 

Free sailings for neighbours

DFDS offers people of Kent one free post-Covid weekend return trip to recognise extraordinary patience of Kent residents.

Dover is placed in Kent, where our many neighbors have experienced several traffic disruptions during the pandemic. Now, DFDS has decided to offer free ferry trips tKent residents once current Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.

Filip Hermann, Vice-President & Head of Channel Routes for DFDS, said: “Our employees stepped up and helped us to get more people home by running extra sailings over the Christmas period. Local people also showed great kindness and community-spirit, coming together to help the drivers stuck in Dover, at Manston and on the M20, despite the disruption their communities were caught up in. We’d like to express our sincere thanks to them by offering them the opportunity to travel with us free for a weekend break after the Covid-19 restrictions are lifted.”

Up to 2,000 Kent residents in total can travel for free under the offer, travelling out on a Saturday and returning the next day. The free sailings will be for a car and up to four passengers and will be made available in 2021, as travel currently remains restricted to essential journeys only under the Covid-19 tier system. 

DFDS will inform the Kent residents about how to claim the free crossings once pandemic restrictions are lifted.

Agreement opens French border

In an agreement between France and the UK, ferry passengers and lorry drivers can again enter France with a negative Covid-19 test.

Entry into France was banned from Sunday because of the mutant coronavirus found in the UK, and this has caused massive traffic congestion on the motorway towards Dover, where the UK Government has initiated the so-called operations stack – placing the many waiting trucks in a special area.

The ferries sailed nearly empty from Dover, but now there is light at the end of the tunnel for the many lorry drivers and travellers stuck in their cars and lorries without access to water and toilets for days – and waiting to get home for Christmas.

Due to an agreement with the UK, France again opened its borders for lorry drivers and other passengers who travel for essential reasons, and the first passengers left Dover early today, Wednesday 23 December.

Negative Covid-19 test

Passengers are required to produce a negative COVID-19 test result upon departure in UK and upon arrival in France that has been conducted within 72 hours of travel. The UK Government is setting up test centres, and for a short time, the French authorities will accept quick tests – the so-call antigen tests – that can provide a result within 30 minutes.

However, with about 4000 trucks waiting, it will take days to get them all to France, and DFDS is considering offering additional sailings on 24 December to help the many who struggle to get home to their families for Christmas

Only EU citizens returning home and those travelling for essential reasons, including lorry drivers, will be able to travel.

DFDS’ passenger and freight departments are already busy informing travelers and lorry drivers about this, including that passengers without a valid, negative test, will be denied boarding and should not come to the port.

Change of guard in BU Channel

Filip Hermann and Kasper Moos

As we announced before the summer, BU Short Routes and Passenger was split into BU Channel and BU Group Passenger, and we also announced that Filip Hermann was to take up the role as VP of BU Channel. He follows Kasper Moos, who will focus fully on leading BU Group Passenger through the COVID-19 crisis and regaining growth after the pandemic.  

On Monday, the change of guard was marked by a virtual staff meeting on Microsoft Teams. Kasper gave a briefing on last week’s DFDS annual management conference and explained the new separate organisations of BU Channel and BU Passenger.  

Kasper was followed by Gemma Griffin who updated everyone about the work on diversity and inclusivity, remote leadership, and support for those working from home.  Wayne Bullen then talked about how  freight volumes are obviously challenged by the COVID-19 virus, but stated that as a team we had managed to outperform the market and the competition, however despite this achievement it did not compensate for the  significant loss of passenger volume or revenue. 

Chris Parker then showed the development over the year for passenger cars. The figures clearly demonstrated the huge effect of the virus as 2020 saw only about a third of the cars that were carried across the Channel when compared to 2019.  

Thank you and farewell 
Kasper used the occasion to say thank you and farewell to everyone and to welcome Filip as new Head of Channel. He didn’t get the last word though as the thanks were returned by Gemma to all the staff ship and shore for their hard work in extremely challenging circumstances over the last 6 months and Wayne to Kasper on behalf of all of the Channel Team for his support and leadership over the past 4 years. 

“BU Channel is blessed with a remarkable leadership team who know their business, their customers, ships and people inside out. They will know how to support Filip, so together they can bring the business safely through even major challenges such as the current second wave of COVID19 and the end of the Brexit transition period,” says Kasper. 

“I am also extremely pleased that I will continue working with BU Channel through our collaboration on the passenger business and look forward to a future when travel restrictions are a thing of the past and travelling is flourishing again.”  

Filip to visit offices, ports and ships 
Filip, who is now officially head of the Channel, said that he will now consider himself as training on the job and spend time meeting as many colleagues as possible and collecting everybody’s good ideas. Over the next few days, he will visit colleagues in Dover, Dunkerque, Calais and Dieppeand the vessels  

“There is enough to do. We need to navigate business safely through the COVID-19 storm, prepare for Brexit and get ready to receive and deploy our new ferry, Côte D’Opale, Filip said.  

Filip added that he has now moved with his family to Canterbury, about 25 kilometres northwest of Dover, where he and his wife are expecting their second child to be born soon.  

Strike in Calais today

Harbour masters and other staff are on strike in the Port of Calais. The 24-hour closure began at 8 a.m. this morning. DFDS has switched a Calais ship to the Dover-Dunkirk route and freight vehicles and passengers due to travel between Dover and Calais with DFDS on Thursday are being shipped on the next available Dover-Dunkirk sailing instead.

Ferries between Dover and Calais are suspended due to a strike by harbour masters and other staff at the French port. No DFDS or P&O Ferries staff are on strike.

DFDS has switched one of its Calais ships to the Dover-Dunkirk route to provide extra capacity. Freight vehicles and passengers due to travel between Dover and  Calais with DFDS on Thursday are being shipped on the next available Dover-Dunkirk sailing instead.

The situation is causing delays and there are queues in the ports of Dover and Calais. “We luckily have a route from nearby Dunkirk to Dover and are directing all Dover traffic there. We have two ships in Calais not moving and the staff on them will be supplying waiting drivers with lunch shortly, while they wait to get a spot on the next available vessel crossing the Channel. We are very busy and hope that the strike is called off before time. But we are planning and guiding passengers based on the assumption that the strike will continue until 8 a.m. tomorrow morning,” says DFDS’ Dover Port Operations Director Jesper Christensen.

 

Police action hits traffic in Dover

On Tuesday and Wednesday, Police checked thousands of lorries on roads heading towards Dover. Lorries and cars were delayed by up to 10 hours.

For once, we can’t blame COVID-19. That lorries and cars heading for Dover were due to a police search.

Jesper Christensen, Operations Director Channel, writes: “Police started on Tuesday at 05:00 local time with checks of all vehicles (lorries, tourist and staff cars) entering the Port of Dover as part of a search for a named individual. Similar checks were also made at Eurotunnel and other ports in the UK. The checks were carried out within the port by Kent and Port of Dover Police. They were supported by Sussex Police on Wednesday, with some 35 officers searching vehicles. The remaining tourist traffic wasn’t significantly affected, but freight traffic was backed up the A2 and A20 (at some stage in a 9-mile queue). Ferries unfortunately sailed with only 1/3 to 1/2 of the deck utilised for most of the day. The police have now stood down the search and we are working on clearing the freight traffic, but it will be Thursday before the last vehicles have been shipped.

“We apologise for the significant delays to our freight customers and have done our outmost to speed up the flow through the port. A big thank you to freight sales for keeping customers up to date and for the staff in the port and on board for looking after the drivers once clear of the Police search.”

Children’s Pirate Island comes to life on Dover – France routes

Ali Kazam and his friends Jack the Pirate and Sam the Turtle are entertaining our younger guests on the channel in a new initiative

 

Over the busy holiday season we have lots of families on board our ferries, and for that reason we have a number of services on board our ships especially designed for our junior guests, from the new Pirate Island Zapper interactive game and the children’s play area to specially-created menus in our bars and restaurants. To compliment these fabulous services, we have brought Pirate Island to life on board selected Dover – France sailings.

Laura Charlton, Customer Experience Specialist for BU Short Routes & Passenger, says: “Our junior customers really love our Pirate Island brand, and this year we created a new team of Customer Entertainment Associates to work on board and ashore to bring Pirate Island to life. The team is creating great interactions with the kids and parents, dressing up as Jack the Pirate, Sam the Turtle and Ali Kazam, with customised selfie boards for each character, and colouring-in sheets. Many thanks to our new colleagues for creating a fun and happy environment, and to Laura Thomson, Content & Design Specialist, for arranging for the fabulous selfie boards and stands for the pop-up area.”

Steve Garner, Customer Experience Manager BU Short Routes & Passenger, says: “This is just fantastic. I cannot thank Laura and her team enough for all the hard work that has gone into getting this new initiative up and running so quickly. It was an absolute privilege to be part of the first crossing, seeing the joy the extra entertainment brought to our guests. A special thank you to our fantastic crew on board our vessels and to the Dover Operations Team for helping us facilitate this.”


Pictured are Steve Garner, Laura Charlton, Scott Boyton (Business Leader Dover Seaways), Frazer Rickatson (Customer Entertainment Associate), Ali Kazam and the Moss Family, who thoroughly enjoyed the Pirate Island characters and activities onboard

First Super User group graduates from LS Retail Super User workshops

Workshops for Super Users of LS Retail are running across the DFDS network and the first group has just graduated

 

When it comes to on-board sales, it’s very important not just to have a good software platform to support sales, but also to have staff that can assist their colleagues in using it to its full potential.

Workshops that enable our staff to become even better at supporting sales are currently underway for Super Users of the LS Retail sales platform, which is used at all points of sale on board our passenger vessels across the DFDS network. Now the first group of LS Retail Super Users have graduated from their Super User training, and it is a great start for the LS Retail team that runs it.

This group consisted of crew members from the ships on the English Channel and some of their colleagues in the back office who attended a two-day workshop in Dover in late March and completed their training with another two-day session at the beginning of May. The first workshop was centred on the Super User role and the expectations of those taking it on, while the second session had a more technical approach and system focus.

“It was great to see true motivation and engagement for the role, and we are very pleased with the feedback from all of the participants at both events,” said Marianne Hagen, Business Analyst in Finance & IT, who is responsible for implementing the LS Retail Super User organisation.

Whenever you have a question related to LS Retail on the English Channel, please send an email to GroupLSRetailSuperUserEC@dfds.com.

The graduated Super Users are:
Christophe Langlois and Ludovic Guigot from Calais Seaways
Jorge Marques and Nayma Elalem from Delft Seaways
Jelena Savenkova and Rui Romão from Dunkerque Seaways
Scott Boyton and Jason Hulme from Dover Seaways
Pierre-Marie Barron and Jérôme Prin from Côte des Flandres
Laure-Anne Regnault and Emmanuel Coubel from Côtes des Dunes
Heidi Roberts, Ashley Hyde and Armelle Segain from the back-office functions in Whitfield, Dover and Dieppe

By mid-June, the Super User workshops for the Baltic ships will be in place, and after the summer holidays we will roll these out to the cruise routes.

More information on who the next Super Users will be and how to contact them will follow.

Strategy Days on the Newcastle – Amsterdam route

Pictured in IJmuiden terminal are: Andrew Meek; Jesper Christensen; Jean-Claude Charlo; Teun-Wim Leene; Chris Parker; Gemma Griffin; Steve Newberry; Kasper Moos; Wayne Bullen and Rianne Pels.

 

On Tuesday and Wednesday last week Kasper Moos and the BU Channel Management Team held their Team Strategy Days on the Newcastle – Amsterdam route.

Tuesday kicked off with a tour of the IJmuiden site including the terminal. It was wonderful to see so many colleagues not only those who are operationally part of the extended BU Channel Team but from BU Group Passenger Contact Centre and Marketing Teams.

After the site tour, we embarked on the beautiful King Seaways and availed of the fantastic meeting facilities in the private section of the North Sea Bistro Restaurant. Following our meeting we had an extensive tour of the vessel in all the commercial areas: front and back of house as well as the Bridge and the Engine room. It was just amazing to see how the passion and the professionalism drives the performance of this ship – it is a credit to all the officers and crew!


In the engine room onboard King Seaways.

A dinner hosted by the Senior Officers of King Seaways Captain Andreas Kristensen; Chief Engineer Henrik Fisker- Bjerg; First Engineer Claus Rasmussen and Commercial Head Jorn Vase gave Head Chef Dorte Slyngborg and team the opportunity to showcase their culinary talents as they gave us a taste of what’s to come from a new menu for North Sea Bistro.

Once we arrived in Newcastle we had a tour of the site and again had the opportunity to meet and greet lots of our colleagues including BU Group Passenger Contact Centre, Marketing and Sales teams.

It was a great couple of days said Kasper, not least by spending this quality time discussing BUC Strategy with the Senior team but also having the opportunity to network with so many of our colleague ship and shore.

A huge thanks to everyone that welcomed us and keep up the fantastic work that you are doing to create great experiences for our customers.

By Gemma Griffin, VP, HR & Crewing.

Ferries on our Dover – France routes get superfast internet

The new system increases the broadband capacity from about 2 Mbits to 50-100 Mbits

Following an agreement between the DFDS IT project team and the Swedish company Nowhere Networks, the six ferries on our Dover – Calais and Dover – Dunkerque routes get a superfast internet connection.

It increases the broadband capacity from about 2 Mbits to 50-100 Mbits, and this is very appreciated by Steve Newbery, On-board Commercial Director of BU Channel. He says: “This will really add value for our passengers and help our staff in their work. Furthermore, we have lots of projects right now that require a reliable broadband connection.”

The system is currently installed on one ship, and the project team plan to deploy the system on the remaining five ships over the next two months.

“Last year we had more than 129,000 families travelling with us, and highly-improved Wi-Fi means that we can launch our Pirate Island augmented reality treasure hunt for families, and it makes sharing pictures on social media so much easier,” Steve says.

Gert Møller, Vice President & CIO, says: “The project has been ongoing for almost five years, and now we have finally found this small Swedish company that recently tested a new concept very successfully at Tallink, a shipping company with sailings between Helsinki and Tallinn.”

“Nowhere Networks produces low-cost tracking antennas, allowing them to deploy several tracking antennas ashore and on the ships. This increases capacity and performance vastly, and signal delays are significantly reduced. It really is bleeding-edge technology, bordering on the impossible and certainly not an off-the-shelf solution!”

The Nowhere Network solution includes everything from equipment to the full operation of it and on top of that, they deliver high-quality broadband at a considerably lower cost compared to other suppliers on the market.

The technology can only be used on the short Dover – Dunkerque – Calais routes because the system is based on a radio link with a range of no more than 50-60 km.

“I want to thank Jan Svane and Poul Daugaard from the Network and Communications Department and Xavier Kemp in Dover, who manages all the local installations. They have done a great job in reaching this milestone,” Gert says.

 

Joint efforts prepare Channel for Brexit

“The question now is simple – what length of extension can be mutually acceptable to both the EU and the UK? If the EU pushes a hard line on a long extension rather than, it fears, a series of requests for short extensions, is that something which Theresa May can push through Cabinet, and Parliament? No Deal seems unlikely but still eminently possible in the current febrile atmosphere.”

Chris Parker, Director of Capacity & Commercial Performance, Eastern Channel, on Friday 5 April.  

If you are not among the lucky recipients of Chris Parker’s brilliant weekly analyses of the politics of Brexit, you can get a taste of it above in this conclusion from his most recent contribution.

That Chris Parker is following the situation more closely than most is understandable. He is capacity and performance director for our Channel routes – and they will be more affected by Brexit than any other ferry route.

“If we were unprepared for Brexit, DFDS, travellers and hauliers, businesses and tourism on both sides of the Channel would suffer under it. In this situation I am extremely grateful for all the work, energy and commitment we see among our colleagues in the Channel and central Brexit teams helping us prepare for it. I am equally grateful for the commitment we see among customs authorities, ports and trade associations to work with us to find solutions that will mitigate the consequences. All this gives me confidence in our ability to solve many of the challenges a hard Brexit would present us if the attempts to postpone it should fail,” says Kasper Moos, Head of BU Channel.

Preparations include the below.

Finding solutions with customs
We have had a series of meetings with French customs that has fostered a very good solution. The French customs authorities will get the customs clearance documents for all trucks boarding in Dover so they can use the crossing time to inspect documents. Via an information board in the drivers’ lounge, trucks’ number plates will be listed in red for the trucks which customs want to inspect at arrival. All other trucks, listed in green, will be able to continue their journey after arrival without further inspection.

“This is a brilliant solution which will greatly reduce the risk of long waiting times if the trucks have the documentation in place when they arrive at the terminal. Jean Aubert, his team and not least Stephanie Thomas deserve huge credit for their cooperation with customs about this, as do Sean Potter, Jenny Daker and the DIO team for having prepared our systems, and aligned processes, including Phoenix, My Freight, API connection to Authorities, EDI, and 3rd party software along with IT / Digital development to handle this,” says Kasper.

BU Channel and French customs have agreed to test the system again with real trucks on Monday.

Training of staff in port operations where Jesper Christensen’s and Sebastien Douvry’s staff will be the first to meet customers on arrival and to check whether documents have been completed and guide the customers. Port operation colleagues have also done a great job preparing Dunkerque for handling more trucks waiting and for customs controls.

HR preparations
“The impact of Brexit will be felt not just by our customers but by our staff, and our HR departments have been working hard to support all of our colleagues and to ensure continuity of our services”.

Informing passengers and cargo customers.
“Philipp Päper has done a great job coordinating our passenger Brexit preparations, and BU Group Passenger, with support from Digital, have been preparing our digital sales platform to communicate with our passengers about new requirements. Wayne Bullen and his team have been extremely busy informing and coordinating with all our freight customers.

IT systems
A huge amount of work is ongoing to adapt our IT systems to the new requirements, including for communicating with customs systems in all countries, port systems and customers’ systems.

Are we ready?
“We are as prepared as we can be. However, despite all preparations and communications to our customers, there is still a risk that some of our customers won’t be ready with the required export and import declarations from day one. Therefore, we expect that there will be disruption to the operations in the early days so we have allocated additional staff and management to secure the contact to all relevant stakeholders to be able to react promptly to potential disruptions.”


Kasper Moos, Vice President & Head of BU Channel

BU Channel celebrates Mother’s Day

Trisha Sharman, Operations Co-Ordinator, Dover, presenting one of our lovely Mothers with a surprise access pass for herself and her husband to the Premium lounge and to enjoy a complimentary meal for two.

On 31 March the team in BU Channel celebrated the special ladies travelling with DFDS as it was Mother’s Day. Mother’s Day is a celebration to honour the mother of the family.

Steve Garner, Customer Experience Manager of BU Channel, says: “The teams in both Dover and Newcastle selected some special ladies and their families to a Premium Lounge Upgrade and a meal on our Dover routes and in Newcastle, we invited selected families to a complimentary meal in the Explorers Kitchen for them to enjoy together on their cruise to Amsterdam.”

“Other mums were presented with boxes of chocolates at check-in and in the loading lanes, and lots of delight was shared via our social media channels from our selected customers, which always brings a lot of smiles and great comments from our followers.”

“When we make the extra effort with these types of events, these complimentary rewards are always extremely well received. Thank you to Marisa Corbo and her team in Dover and to Jade Whitfield and her colleagues in Newcastle for looking after these lovely ladies on Mother’s Day,” says Steve.

Happy mothers in Dover:

And happy mothers in Newcastle:

BU Channel celebrates reading and storytelling as part of World Book Day

Over the last weeks our British colleagues have promoted World Book Day, a charity that strive to encourage families to take time to share stories and promote the importance of reading for pleasure. It’s the biggest celebration of its kind, designated by UNESCO as a worldwide celebration of books and reading.

As part of DFDS’ World Book Day campaign, Children and families from the UK, France, Netherlands and Germany participated in unique workshops facilitated by six enthusiastic British children book authors on board Côte Des Dunes and King Seaways.

Steve Garner, Customer Experience Manager for DFDS said: “We were delighted to be able to offer these engaging and interactive workshops during the busy February half-term. As a ferry operator, we recognise that families are given quality time they may not otherwise have when travelling by other modes of transport.”

Read a lot more about the two events on board Côte Des Dunes and King Seaways in the full press releases:
Eastern Channel event on board Côte Des Dunes

North Sea event on board King Seaways


Author Steve Cole ran a creative writing workshop, during which he taught children quick-and-easy ways to invent and grow story ideas

 


Award-winning novelist Gwyneth Rees shared some childhood experiences of writing stories and told the children about her first book, which she wrote at just 10 years old

 


Illustrator Lynne Chapman taught the children how to make illustrations simple, yet emotive and effective

 


Musician, poet, author and enthusiastic Miles Salter had the children on their feet and encouraged children to tell stories through acting and role play

Migrants boarded Calais Seaways in Calais on Saturday

On Saturday evening, around 100 migrants broke into the dock area of the port of Calais and about 60 of them succeeded in getting on board Calais Seaways by means of a maintenance ladder before the ship’s crew had been able to discharge the passengers and their vehicles.

When the ramp came down, the police could support the crew with discharging the ship and detain the many of the migrants. However, 17 of them had climbed high above the deck to a catwalk attached to the ship’s funnel, and it took until Sunday for the police and fire services to persuade them to climb down.

According to the port, it was orchestrated by a few migrants from Afghanistan and Iran.

Two of the migrants fell into the water during the attempt to board the ship and had to be rescued by the local firemen.

“There was no violence involved, but in the stressful situation a colleague stumbled and injured her arm. I am very sorry for this. I am also sorry for the delays that our passengers experienced in relation to this as it also delayed Cote des Dunes’ arrival and Calais Seaways’ departure until Sunday,” says Kasper Moos, Head of BU Channel.

“I decided to participate in an interview with the BBC the national broadcaster in the UK, to make it clear that is a very unusual situation. Even though migrants try to get to the UK hidden in trailers, we hardly ever see illegal migrants on board. This is a peaceful, reliable and safe route for travels between The UK and France,” says Kasper Moos.

Gemma Griffin, VP of HR & Crewing, says: “During the course of this incident it has to be said that the officers and crew of Calais Seaways did an incredible job in unusual circumstances and of course took excellent care of the passengers who were on board at the time and we sincerely thank them for their efforts. Of course, this is a highly unusual and indeed very stressful event in the course of our normal duties onboard, so psychological support will be arranged to take good care of our colleagues in the days following this event.”


The police was ready to support the crew with discharging the ship and detaining the many of the migrants

Channel customers delayed by thorough customs checks

Calais Seaways was moved from Calais – Dover to Dunkerque – Dover to help out for a period of time

Today, French Channel ports are experiencing major traffic flow problems as French Customs seems to have decided to check travellers coming into France from the UK more thoroughly than usual. At times this is causing longer waiting times and queues, even on the roads leading to the ports.

“We are very sorry for this situation and the effect it has on our customers. In Dunkerque, our large capacity for storing trucks helps us mitigate the consequences, and many customers that would normally use Calais have been seeking Dunkerque for this reason, says Sébastien Douvry, Operations Director. Calais Seaways was moved from Calais – Dover to Dunkerque – Dover to help out for a period of time.

“We understand it is related to a disagreement between Customs and the customs workers’ union. However, we strongly urge them help us maintain flow in the Channel services as it is causing a big problem for our customers. We have a very positive cooperation with the French Customs in the work preparing for Brexit. They are cooperative and open in their efforts to find workable solutions that will mitigate the consequences of Brexit on traffic between the UK and France. And I am confident that we will be able to find solutions that will help us provide a good service to our customers and avoid unnecessary delays if we continue our good cooperation,” says Kasper Moos, Head of BU Channel.

BU Channel introduces new bicycle catering service at Dunkerque Terminal

Sophie Franque driving the new bicycle at Dunkerque Terminal

The BU Channel Customer Experience team reviews comments from our customers about the services we offer and what we can do to improve them on a monthly basis. The team takes the feedback, shares it with Heads of Department, and decides on the actions they can take to meet the suggestions.

Steve Garner, Customer Experience Manager at BU Channel says: “We hear from our customers that they find the catering facilities at the Dunkerque passenger terminal rather limited, as we only offer hot and cold drinks, sandwiches and snacks via vending machines.”

“Our customers suggested that we could offer fresher items at the terminal. Not much time was spent between idea and action, and so it did not take long until Sophie Franque, Operations Agent, took our new bicycle service on a test drive down the Dunkerque loading lanes.”

The new service will commence at the Easter holidays between the hours of 10.00-18.00 and offer our customers hot and cold drinks, croissants, pastries and ice cream in the summer.

“Thank you to Sebastien Douvry, Operations Director France, and his team for coming up with this initiative. We are very much looking forward to spending time with our customers in the loading lanes over the Easter period to hear what they think of the new service” adds Steve.

BU Channel celebrates national ‘Love Your Pet Day’

In Dover, Dunkerque and Calais, the teams celebrated ‘Love Your Pet Day’ with our customers in the ports, rewarding 20 furry-guest lovers with a fabulous pet gift box, filled with pet essentials.

February 20 is national ‘Love Your Pet Day’ in the UK and it’s a great day to show your love for our little furry friends. Whether you’re a cat or dog lover, or you’ve got a family of chimpanzees sharing your home with you, this is the day to spoil them even more than you normally do, and show them how much they mean to your family.

In Dover, Dunkerque and Calais, the teams celebrated this special day with our customers in the ports, rewarding 20 furry-guest lovers with a fabulous pet gift box, filled with pet essentials.

Steve Garner, Customer Experience Manager at BU Channel, says: “It was so exciting sharing this national day, where we surprised and delighted our customers with their super pet gift boxes.”

“On our Dover – France routes we carry around 86,000 dogs a year. This generates a very respectable revenue for our routes as we have many guests who love to take their furry family member on their annual holiday or to visit family in other countries. In BU Channel, we have implemented a number of pet initiatives over the last year to enhance the customer experience for passengers travelling with their furry family members, ranging from our dedicated DFDS Pet Pals who are first-aid trained to support in the times of need, to a new pet exercise area in Dover.”

Sharing the Valentine’s love in BU Channel

The #DFDSSURPRISES winner’s voucher brought smiles from coast to coast in BU Channel

 

The romantic day of love we call Valentine’s Day is celebrated annually on 14 February in honour of the two early saints named Valentinus. The BU Channel team put their heads together on what they could do to celebrate the day.

Steve Garner, Customer Experience Manager of BU Channel, said “There was so much love in the air onboard and ashore and we could not let the day of love pass without sharing this with our wonderful customers. In Dover, Dunkirk and Calais our tickets offices were dressed in hearts and banners, and our customers enjoyed chocolates and Valentine’s sweets.”

20 lucky passengers were also selected at each of the three ports and given a #DFDSSURPRISES winner’s voucher – A real Valentine’s treat with complimentary lounge access and a meal for two, along with a rose and a box of chocolates.

The charming solo passenger Derek, aged 71 was overwhelmed at the surprise and caused quite a stir with fun and laughter together with Dover’s check-in team and their Customer Support Supervisor, Lenka Frycova

On Friday the sharing of love continued in Newcastle where the team also decorated the terminal in a Valentine’s theme, gave out chocolates to our passengers and upgraded four couples to a complimentary two course meal and a bottle of wine in the North Sea Bistro for their cruise between Newcastle and Amsterdam on board King Seaways.

Restaurant tables for the lucky passengers were set with rose confetti and a ‘love’ cracker, arranged by Jade Whitfield, Port Office Manager and Tamara Rebair, Port Supervisor from Newcastle

The channel overflowed with smiles from our excited winners, as did our social media with lots of sweet comments from our followers.

“Did cupid work his magic onboard Calais Seaways whilst sailing into the Channel sun? Or did he wait for King Seaways to cruise into the night dusk of the North Sea? Who can really say? This event was a great opportunity to give something back to our guests who appreciated the extra attention on both our Dover-France and Newcastle-Amsterdam routes,” added Steve.

 

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DFDS Give the Gift of a Magic Christmas

To make a happy Christmas for all children, DFDS invited a group of disadvantaged children to the White Cliffs Christmas market in Dover on Friday 21 December.

“We set up an exclusive meeting with the real Santa Claus who surprised them with wonderful gifts, arranged for a spin on the ice rink with courageous Jack the Pirate and his elf in tow, organised for them to have a whizz around the rides and experience the magic of Christmas when they otherwise might not have been able to. With special thanks to Port of Dover for being so accommodating,” says Aimee Parnham, Brand and PR Specialist.

BU Channel trials customer satisfaction tool at check-in

In January 2018, the BU Channel On-board Services team implemented the Smiley or Not temperature check system on board all six vessels on the Dover – Calais and Dover – Dunkerque routes.

Steve Garner, Customer Experience Manager of BU Channel, says: ”We have received over 500,000 responses and we can see that this tool is a fantastic benefit to us allowing us to act immediately on changes. Understanding the satisfaction of our customers is absolutely paramount to us so that we can ensure we are on the right track or we can act quickly in the event of something impacting satisfaction. Due to the success of this tool, a trial has commenced on the passenger vehicle check-in booths in Dover.”

“We commenced the trial at the check-in booths over two weeks ago and we can see this is already a very popular tool for our customers. We can see immediately what our customers are feeling through the smiley face system and the outcome is extremely positive. We have achieved a Net Promotor Score of 67, which is absolutely amazing, and this just cements the fantastic job our team in BU Channel do on a daily basis on board and ashore to guarantee a memorable and positive customer experience for our valuable guests. Due to the success of the Smiley or Not tool, this will be rolled out to all tourist passenger check-ins in BU Channel in the first quarter of 2019. We are extremely excited about that.”

Karen Norman, Operations Co-ordinator, showcasing the Smiley or Not console on the check-in booth in Dover

 

Work exchange between ports and contact centre in BU Channel

Lenka Frycova, Customer Support Supervisor, and Jonathan Dolan, Travel Sales Advisor, taking live calls and assisting our customers with their enquiries

Within DFDS we pride ourselves on sharing best practice and expertise among our colleagues to increase their skillset, and to be able to provide a knowledgeable and confident service to our valued guests.

Steve Garner, Customer Experience Manager of BU Channel, says: “We have been sharing best practice between our operational management team and our contact centre colleagues for over 18 months now. We have seen a great benefit in expanding both teams’ knowledge about these extremely important customer touchpoints, and we have seen a boost in expertise from the Customer Support Supervisors in assisting their teams as a result of spending time in the contact centre, and vice versa. Most importantly, our colleagues have made new contacts, and important friendships have been created along the way, which is just fabulous!”

Most recently, Lenka Frycova, Customer Support Supervisor from Dover, spent a week on work exchange in Newcastle.

“Lenka picked up a lot of knowledge by spending time in the contact centre with the team, supervisors and managers, gaining a full understanding of the customer journey and the processes within the contact centre. A number of new ideas have already been exchanged between Lenka and her contact centre colleagues to reduce impact for our guests, and increase satisfaction within the customer touchpoints. It really does give me great joy to see our colleagues learning from each another. Thank you to Lynsey Chappell, Head of Contact Centre UK, and her team for making this education programme a great success,” says Steve.

 

We all love a story with a happy ending…

Many thanks to Florence Brunel, Acquisition & Brand Marketing Specialist, for sharing this nice story with us all.

This wonderful story started on board our Dieppe – Newhaven ferry. While travelling back to Brighton, one of our little passengers, Lula, lost her cuddly toy. Lula’s mother contacted us the following day to ask if “Doudou” had been found and after a lot of searching, our crew finally managed to track him down on board. The Business Leader said that he would look after the toy until Lula could pick him up at Newhaven. Lula was terribly sad to be separated from her lifetime friend but to help her feel better, her mother and the crew decided to tell her a story about Doudou’s adventures on board the ship.
This is what the crew wrote for little Lula:

We found a little toy dog wandering on a big ferry boat, sad and unhappy. At first it was difficult to understand what he was saying but we listened very hard and he told us that his name was Doudou, that he had lost his family but most of all, he was missing his best friend Lula.

We said he must stay with us until his family came back and as we were short-staffed, we asked him to help on board. Being busy helped to keep him smiling and took his mind off his problems!

Doudou’s first job was in the kitchens. He was an immediate success and soon made friends with all the chefs. He cooked an excellent spaghetti bolognaise which was very popular with everyone!

We saw that he was very clever and reliable so we asked him to replace the storekeeper and he agreed. Very quickly, Doudou learned to drive the forklift truck and did a wonderful job. In spite of his smiling face, we all knew that Doudou felt sad and missed home, so we gave him lots of jobs to keep him occupied.

Doudou went to work in the cafeteria serving meals to passengers. Then he was asked to be cashier and to take money at the till.

He served drinks in the bar before moving to the Information Desk. Everything was going well until we received a message saying that his family had called and that Lula was very sad without him. He was overjoyed and very excited about seeing Lula again!

We talked about all his adventures and I thanked him for all his hard work. I was surprised when he rushed off to the shop and spent all his wages on sweets – I thought that he must be a very greedy dog and I told him not to make himself sick! He winked and said: “Don’t worry – the sweets are not for me! Lula loves sweets and I am going to share them with her.”

We think this is a wonderful story and Lula’s family is happy for us to share it with you!

We would like to say a massive thank you to all the services involved: the crew on board, the French Lost Property Team and staff at Dieppe and Newhaven for their assistance. Thanks to all of you, Lula has been reunited with her loyal friend.