Rescuing abandoned pets in Calais

Hear the story of César and the partnership with animal rescue LPA.


A partnership between DFDS and animal rescue charity LPA (Ligue de Protection des Animaux du Calais) in Calais helps animals left behind at the terminal. This greatly improves the rate and speed of adoption to avoid pets becoming strays.

Many animals, especially dogs, are sadly each year left behind by their owners at the Calais terminal, often because of problems with paperwork or vaccinations. Yaneth, Adam and their Boxer dog, Columbo, recently had trouble with their pet passport and received a helping hand from DFDS, but sometimes the misfortune is not solved, and an animal is left behind. One of them, German Shepherd César, was abandoned at Calais Port.

Watch the video for César’s story and see how the partnership with LPA works. It all came about after a DFDS member of staff in Calais became increasingly concerned about the fate of pets abandoned at Calais.

DFDS staff at the terminal have even taken abandoned pets home rather than see them become strays. One of the operations co-ordinators at Calais, Mélanie Declercq, decided to try to find a more practical solution, which is already making a difference.

Florent Dagbert, general manager of the LPA, Calais, says the DFDS partnership has meant they are able to help pets much more effectively: “Because they already have papers, the animals do not have to be kept in quarantine, isolated from people and other dogs, for months. The partnership with DFDS allows us to adopt animals more quickly and easily.”

Beware of dragons

Even though our Channel ferries sail in the busiest waters of all DFDS routes, and have to keep a close look on a great number of passing ships, a crossing is both safe and peaceful. At least so we thought. But now it appears there are dangers that even our most experienced captains never thought of.

According to legend, there are huge galleries beneath the earth’s crust where fantastic creatures evolve – and so, in fact, out came the pictured greenish beast of the sea. It is even documented in the above picture showing the dragon with Calais Seaways safely hiding in the background.

No need for alarm though: the dragon is clearly snoring and doesn’t look like it will wake up anytime soon. And as a crowd of several hundred people and children are daring to approach it for selfies, it may also be safe for our ships to pass it.

After all: it is Halloween. Praise to the French artist François Delarozière for making Halloween such a great party in Calais.

Calais Seaways saves Columbo

No day in PR is predictable and that especially goes for Fridays where anything can happen. For Naomi Harper, PR Manager, Friday the 11th was absolutely no exception. Listen to Naomi’s take on a memorable day.

I settled down for a quiet day of planning when the phone rang, as it so often does. Sometimes it is just a customer who has dialled the wrong number and is looking to get through to make a booking. On this occasion though, the gentleman called Adam on the end of the line sounded panicked and said it was an emergency. So there was no doubt in my mind that I had to help.

Adam explained that he and his wife, Yaneth, and their Boxer dog, Columbo, were on their way home from Calais. There had been an issue with Columbo’s pet passport and Eurotunnel wouldn’t accept it. Adam had to immediately return to the UK due to work commitments and to return a vehicle, so he had to leave his wife and dog in Calais.

His question to us was, after having Columbo’s pet passport re-stamped and waiting the required 24 hours, could they sail back with us the next day as foot passengers. They sadly could not as our Eastern Channel route doesn’t take foot passengers. I was, however, determined to find another way.

After checking with the team, we arranged a DFDS van to collect Yaneth and Columbo in Calais the next day and pop them onto Calais Seaways for a smooth crossing back to Dover. Yaneth enjoyed a glass of prosecco in the Premium Lounge and treated Columbo to a toy from the on-board shop.

Adam then met them at the Port of Dover for a safe onward journey. Additionally, Adam mentioned afterwards that he’s a business studies lecturer at a university and would be using DFDS as a case study to show his students how a business should treat its ‘potential’ customers and win them as actual customers.

It was brilliant team work, pulling this together at the last minute to bring these passengers back to the UK, so thank you to Cyril Bourgois in Calais, Therese Boullot on Calais Seaways, Guy Ellis in Dover, Jesper Christensen and Gemma Griffin.

DFDS Calais stands out to support abandoned pets

Mélanie Declercq, Operations Agent, and Florent Dagbert, Head of Ligue de Protection des Animaux du Calais (LPA), met at the port of Calais. Florent expressed special thanks for the support from DFDS, and Mélanie presented Florent with some special treats from DFDS for the pets.

Pets are an important part of our passenger business, and their welfare is a top priority for our colleagues on our Dover – France routes.

To permit travel to the UK, pets must be compliant with the Pet Travel scheme, but at times this is not the case.
Mélanie Declercq, Operations Agent at Calais, says: “Sadly we have experienced dogs and cats being abandoned at our terminals by their owners as they are unable to pay the costs for the treatment which is extremely upsetting for us to see.”

“We are not permitted to take the pets home for our own safety and welfare reasons so I researched what DFDS could do to help, and I met with Florent Dagbert from Ligue de Protection des Animaux du Calais (LPA). LPA were delighted we got in touch and a collaboration to help the abandoned pets has now been established.”

LPA is a local private organisation which provides care for abandoned pets. They ensure the pets are looked after and returned to good health, complete all vaccinations which are required and rehome the pets with a local family.

“Animals and the environment are very close to my heart, and I believe this is a great first step. We are now looking at the next steps of further support between DFDS and LPA, and I and my colleagues are extremely happy with this solution as we all want to ensure these beautiful pets a good life. It is very sad but this is the reality that we see in France on a daily basis, along with a recurring theme of puppy trafficking too which we are working with the authorities at all times to prevent,” says Mélanie.

LPA are also very happy with the new partnership.
Florent Dagbert, Head of LPA, says: “This partnership is great and very useful as the port of Calais is highly frequented and many pets travel. It is our duty to provide good care for animals and find a solution for them when abandoned. With Brexit coming soon, it is important to have a great collaboration between DFDS and LPA as the animal controls will intensify prior to departure and at arrival, and a lot more smuggled puppies might be discovered too.”

Steve Garner, Customer Experience Manager of BU Short Routes & Passenger, says: “The passion and dedication from Mélanie and her colleagues is overwhelming, and this is a moment where you feel extremely proud to be part of DFDS. The team have seen a problem and fixed it by living the behaviours of the DFDS Way. We are all very appreciative of the time and hard work that has gone into this project by Mélanie.”

Mélanie has shared this new solution with her colleagues in Dunkerque, where a similar solution is being investigated, and even with our good neighbours at P&O Ferries, who also find the collaboration of great interest.

Some special treats from DFDS for the abandoned pets being taken care of by LPA

Torben Carlsen visited Calais

On Monday this week, Torben met managers and staff in Calais – and was impressed and encouraged by the skills and commitment he experienced.


On Monday morning this week, Torben Carlsen visited Calais where he had one-to-one meetings with Jean Claude Charlo, Head of our organisation in France, and Delphine Blanquart, Operations Manager. Those meetings were followed by a staff meeting where Torben gave everyone an insight in the business development and – not least – our Win23 strategy and the implementation plans.

“It was again an encouraging experience to meet such skilled and committed colleagues, both at the individual meetings with managers and at the town hall that followed afterwards. With staff from Dieppe, Dunkerque and Calais. Everywhere I felt such huge interest in our company that I am very confident about our future,” says Torben.

On Monday, we will publish a story about Torben’s visit in Ghent on the same day.

Eastern Channel teams look back on a busy high season

The crew from Calais Seaways, who are also in the final for the Team of the Year award!

The summer period is always a very busy season for our BU Short Routes & Passenger colleagues, and this year they have plenty of achievements to be proud of.

Steve Garner, Customer Experience Manager of BU Short Routes & Passenger, says: “Lots of preparation goes into getting ready for the high season, from welcoming new colleagues to supporting the extra volume of passengers on board and ashore, and launching new seasonal products in our outlets on our vessels. It’s all hands on deck in all areas of our organisation, and it’s all go, go, go!”

“We have the great privilege of meeting so many wonderful customers who have chosen to make DFDS part of their annual holiday. Between 15 July and 2 September, we welcomed 1,114,995 tourist and freight passengers and a total of 414,156 vehicles at our port and on board our ferries sailing on the Dover ‒ France routes.

Our check-in staff were ready to greet them all with big smiles. In most cases, this is our customers’ first human interaction with DFDS, as 80% of bookings are made online, so first impressions count, and our teams at the port ensure that the service delivered is positive and memorable, in order to leave an permanent and positive impression of DFDS,” says Steve.

The high season has been a great success, but sometimes things can go wrong and this can have an impact on both customers and services.

“We had to cancel 14 out of 2612 sailings due to a technical problem but mostly was due to extreme weather conditions which hit the English Channel on 9 and 10 August. We also experienced a heat wave, with temperatures rising to above 30c in the UK, which makes working conditions difficult, but our teams powered on. Delft Seaways lost its air conditioning on one round-trip, but the crew acted swiftly and offered free ice cream and water to our guests to ensure they were as comfortable as possible.

Colleagues from France came to Dover to help on the assembly lanes for the busy exits, and similarly our UK colleagues travelled to France to support with the busy returns. A big thank you to all our customer-facing teams on board and ashore for their continued teamwork and dedication. We are also extremely excited to have two teams from our Eastern Channel Business in the final of Team of the Year Award, so that is something else to celebrate. Congratulations and good luck to Freight Sales and Calais Seaways,” says Steve.

Jesper Christensen, Operations Director of BU Short Routes & Passenger, is also very grateful for the good work by all the teams at Eastern Channel over this very busy summer.

He says: “Our teams have plenty to celebrate and be proud of. We have received great feedback from our customers about our staff and services on board and ashore, and we have also seen a positive response to the launch of our new Horizon Pizza & Pasta food concept and the Pirate Island Children’s Activity Packs issued at check-in. Our passengers have also praised us on the extra attention we have provided to pets travelling with us onboard and on both sides of the Channel which is extremely positive.

Our Customer Entertainment associates have entertained our junior guests, and the new birthday celebration activities have been well-received. Average turnaround times remained on target and our fuel consumption has also remained at a very respectable level too. Great achievements all round! The senior management team and I would like to thank all our teams on board and ashore for their continuous hard work and dedication over the busy holiday period.”


Demonstrations in France affecting our customers

Since 17 November, French citizens wearing yellow vests as a symbol of the French protests against higher fuel prices, taxes and showing purchasing power have been demonstrating by blockading important roundabouts, roads, hypermarkets and supermarkets all over France, as well as creating snail operations on motorways.

This means that in particular the road to Dieppe is partly blocked, and the situation is very difficult. “Our customers are currently experiencing major challenges in driving to our terminals, especially on our Dieppe – Newhaven route. Since the protests started, we have worked hard on helping our customers finding alternative routes, but it is really a difficult situation,” says Sébastien Douvry, Operations Director in BU Channel France.

Other areas in our route network are also affected, as Calais and Dunkerque Ports are experiencing similar challenges – but not as bad as in Dieppe though.

“We are of course cooperating with all relevant authorities in order to find solutions. The French government has made some proposals, which were unfortunately not sufficient. The difficulty of this situation is that no identified leaders from the government are open to discussing the situation, so we need to wait and see what Emmanuel Macron decides,” says Sébastien.

BU Channel introduces auto-response SMS service

As reported last week, Eurotunnel experienced major delays due to the hot weather conditions, which resulted in an increase for live port and sailing information from our guests.

Steve Garner, Customer Experience Manager for BU Channel, says: “Our guests were contacting us via our travel update channels as they were concerned if the delays and weather conditions were impacting the port of Dover and our services, but our talented team worked extremely hard to reply to all the posts on social media.
Due to the growing demand for travel updates, we needed to find a solution that could be implemented quickly were our customers could receive the latest information around the clock, so our SMS provider, Textlocal, created an auto-response SMS service where customers can text DFDS directly to receive the latest travel information, this was live, and our team were trained within hours, so we could meet this growing demand.
We already have an existing SMS service, but during high volumes of traffic this method can be a very time-consuming process, because we have to pull every mobile number booked on the sailing departure and transfer them to the Textlocal system.”

Steve concludes: “The feedback has been extremely positive with our guests informing us at check-in what an accessible and informative service this is.”

To use this new service text: 60777 DFDSDOVER when travelling from Dover, DFDSCALAIS when travelling from Calais, and DFDSDUNKIRK when travelling from Dunkerque.

Dazzling DFDS effort on record-breaking weekend!

Last week in Kent, Eurotunnel suffered severe delays when the air-conditioning systems on some of the trains failed to work. This resulted in more than two-hour delays before check-in and over four hours post check-in, and cancellation of some services.

There was a significant increase in the volume of traffic through the port and delays at UK Border Control that resulted in the town of Dover coming to a standstill over the weekend, unfortunately leading to delays for local people trying to get in and around Dover.

Massive congestion and delays including blocked highway lanes in Dover caused by extreme weather conditions

Once the issues with Eurotunnel became apparent, all parts of the organisation came together to meet the demand. An amazing DFDS team were able to schedule an extra crossing on Saturday night to help ease the congestion at the Port of Dover.

Marketing and the contact centres ensured that customers were kept informed of the latest situation. The freight and capacity teams reviewed and adjusted allocations to ensure that freight traffic could continue to get through and the additional passenger demand accommodated.

Operations prepared their communication channels for the peak weekend and bunkering was adjusted, adding extra round trips on both the Dunkerque and Calais routes. Additionally, the new SMS auto-reply service was launched, which offers passengers text updates about their booking and any delays. The text service was pushed out to followers via Twitter travel updates to keep all passengers up to date

What were the results?

Saturday was the first time ever that ticket revenue was over EUR 1 million for a single day of departures. Overall, revenue from turn-up-and-go traffic for the weekend was up 75% against the same period last year despite limited capacity remaining. It was up 21% in total year-on-year. Additionally, on the website, bookings on the Eastern Channel were up 32% compared to the same week last year.

The Dunkerque Seaways additional round trip, which we put in on Sunday night, sailed fully booked from Dover, with 272 cars, 49 freight vehicles and 918 passengers.
Furthermore, on Saturday Franck Poly and team celebrated Côte des Flandres taking a record revenue not only for the ship but also the top revenue of our fleet for a Saturday. The previous record was beaten by EUR 8,818!

“I am beyond proud of the business’ efforts over the past few days to exceed our customers’ expectations AND to produce these amazing results. I want to extend my special thanks to the fantastic cooperation and coordination between all departments in BU Channel and the teams from BUGP. The speed and efficiency in which everyone pulled together really does go to show how we move for all to grow, and why we’re voted Europe’s Leading Ferry Operator by our customers – thank you, everyone!” says Kasper Moos, VP and Head of BU Channel.

BU Channel offers colouring packs for junior guests

Waiting in the vehicle lanes prior to embarkation is not usually the most enjoyable part of a holiday, especially not for our younger guests. The Operation’s team in BU Channel discussed this matter with Steve Garner, Customer Experience Manager, and together they spent some time in the lanes asking families waiting to embark what would make this step of the journey more enjoyable for them.

“We did what we do best and listened to the voice of our DFDS guest. There were lots of suggestions of a colouring-in sheet and, from 14 March, our junior guests travelling through all three Channel ports will receive a ‘Meet the Friends of Pirate Island’ colouring-in sheet, a pack of colouring pencils and a small bag of sweets at the vehicle check-in,” says Steve.

The initiative has been well received by our younger guests, and on the very first day, nine-year-old Lewis commented: “Hi DFDS, this is 10/10, I love the idea of the colouring-in sheet, thank you!”

“A big thank you to Hawa Turner, Marketing Manager Onboard Services, Dover, for arranging the colouring-in sheet, and to Lauren Fox, Customer Support Supervisor, Dover, for preparing and delivering the children’s packs to all the Channel ports. We are very happy to be able to welcome all our families with this great entertainment pack just before the busy holiday period,” adds Steve.

A sample of the children's packs

A sample of the children’s packs

A work of art from our junior guest Lewis McQueen

A work of art from our junior guest Lewis McQueen

Improving Phoenix: Development team gathers knowledge at BU Channel

When the Phoenix development team visited the Channel, they looked into all relevant aspects of the business, including getting a perfect view of the port’s layout and traffic flows from the top of the White Cliffs of Dover.

Greg McDonald and Sam Kinnaird, analyst from DFDS Phoenix development team based in Grimsby, and Phoenix product owner Tazz Shaw visited Dover, Calais and Dunkirk to gather knowledge about operations and the way the system is used.

Over four days, they learned about all relevant aspects of the operations. They sailed with the ships across the Channel, learned about port layout and operations, spent time in the freight and passenger offices and saw how boarding cards are processed and voyages are tallied in check-in booths. They also spent time with the loadmaster, and watched a full unloading and loading of a Dunkirk ship, seeing how the logistical challenges of filling the vessel from different parts of the port were overcome.

Following a visit to the terminal control and Dover’s White Cliffs for a bird’s eye view of the port’s layout and vehicle flows, they saw how bookings staff in Whitfield use the system, and discussed how the system could be tweaked to make processes more efficient.

“A big thank you to Monica Copley, Gary Whitling, Jesper Christensen, Cheryl Hawes and Hayley Hollett in Dover, and Hélène Hivart and Sebastien Douvry in France, for helping us gather valuable information, which we can use to make Phoenix even more efficient,” says Sam Kinnaird.

The time-lapse video of Dover port operations shows the flows of traffic in the busy port. Thanks to Tazz Shaw, Phoenix product owner.

Ferry service not affected by migrant clashes in Calais

The ferry traffic on Calais – Dover was unaffected by the clashes between groups of migrants in Calais, and there has been no risk to our staff or customers. Photo by Julien Carpentier.

As several media in France and the UK have reported, there were serious clashes between large groups of migrants in the city of Calais on Thursday night. The clashes resulted in  21 migrants being wounded, some of them severely.

“It is a tragic situation, which is unbearable to people in Calais. However, it is also important for me to underline that it took place in the centre of the city and didn’t in any way endanger or affect staff or customers in the port or the ferry traffic. We will naturally keep an eye on the situation as we do not want to take any risks at all. But according to reports, the French authorities quickly got the situation under control,” says Kasper Moos, VP and Head of BU Channel.

Port of Calais blocked on Thursday by fishing boats

16 French fishing boats blocked the entrance to the Port of Calais to protest against Dutch fishermen’s use of electric pulses, which they think has made their own, normal fishing unviable. Towards the end of the afternoon, the fishermen lifted the blockade as they were promised a meeting with the French government. 

Striking French fishermen in 16 boats from Calais and nearby Boulogne-sur- Mer blocked sailings to and from Port of Calais from early on Thursday morning. This meant that two of our ships had to stay in Dover and one in Calais. The fishermen did this to protest against Dutch fishermen’s use of electric pulses, which, they say, has made their own, normal fishing unviable. Towards the end of the afternoon, the fishermen lifted the blockade as they were promised a meeting on Friday with the French government.

“This meant that neither we nor P&O were able to sail between Calais and Dover. As the blockade did not affect Dunkerque, we were able to direct some of our customers to this route. However, we couldn’t avoid longer waiting times for trucks and passengers in Dover and Calais,” says Kasper Moos who hopes that the French government and the fishermen will find a solution.

“I was sorry to see that we had passengers who had to stay on board Calais Seaways from the morning until 17:15 and ashore in both Calais and Dover, so I also hope that the meeting in Paris with our Ministry of Agriculture will be successful so we do not see this again,” says Sebastien Douvry, head of operations in Calais.

Pulse fishing involves dragging electrically-charged lines just above the seafloor to shock fish up from the sand into the nets. The method has been adopted in particular by Dutch vessels fishing for sole. The French fishermen say that it harms fish stocks, and are pushing for a ban.

Soon DFDS will be selling Wi-Fi access on the Channel routes

Just a few weeks ago, DFDS started selling Wi-Fi access to customers on the Copenhagen – Oslo and the Amsterdam – Newcastle routes (we will write about that in a short while). Very soon we will also be able to sell Wi-Fi to our customers on the Channel routes between Dover, Dunkerque and Calais.

The first trial with the new system exceeded all expectations. “Right between Dover and Calais, we measured not less than 144 Mbps which is absolutely outstanding. This level of bandwidth even allows seamless streaming and if all goes well, we expect to be able to sell Wi-Fi on all six of our Channel ships before the summer high season,” says Gert Møller, Vice President & CIO.

It was not an easy journey to get there – the project was initiated 3-4 years ago but several technical problems arose and vendors had to be replaced.

“We finally got a new technical concept, Wimax radio link, and have signed up with Telenor Maritime. It is a private radio link from Dover, Dunkerque and Calais to the ships and to make it work, we need advanced antennae in all three ports and on board the ships,” says Xavier Kemp, Solution & Technology Manager.

Poul Daugaard, System Developer, adds: “The system will give the ships an uplift in bandwidth from around 2 Mbps to 30-50 Mbps and since it is not satellite-based, the delay is at the same time considerably reduced. The customer experience will be vastly improved, and this new system will bring DFDS on a par with P&O Ferries who until recently have had an exclusive agreement.”

Great photos f​rom a ferry enthusiast in Calais

Who wouldn’t want to sail on these beautiful ships across the Channel? Our ferries have rarely looked more exciting than they do in these photos that Julien Carpentier sent us.  He has been passionate about ferries since he was four, and now, 21 years later, he lives near the port and has added a passion for photography to his passion for ferries. As you can see from the photos posted here, he is quite talented.

Thank you to Julien Carpentier, who sent us but a small part of his enormous photo collection.


BU Channel Goes Live with 24/7 Customer SMS Notifications

Hayley Hollett Duty Operations Manager, Dover training Matthew Davidson Manifest Supervisor on the Textlocal application.

The team on BU Channel are always looking for new initiatives to enhance communication with our customers and have launched a new SMS service to take our customer care once step further.

In the event of a delayed service our team in Dover, Dunkirk and Calais keep our guests updated with live port and sailing information via our Twitter Travel Updates handle @DFDSUKUpdates and via our staff at check-in and in the car lanes. We also use public address announcements and departure and arrival screens at our port terminals. From Thursday 7 December these methods of contact were enhanced with the addition of new SMS alerts for all customers who have provided DFDS with a mobile telephone number at the time of booking. The SMS provides an update on the expected check-in time for all Channel routes and provides information in the event of delays. Steve Garner, Customer Experience Manager BU Channel said: “It’s crucial that our guests are kept fully informed of the situation in the event of a delayed service and by sending a SMS directly to our guests we’re offering the quickest solution to ensure their expectations are met.”