Northern France’s largest project to date is a brand new port infrastructure in the city of Calais across the Channel Sea, set to help welcome more travellers between Continental Europe and the UK. The port is currently in a test phase before its official opening to the public next October.

It has been the biggest port construction site in France and one of the biggest in Europe with an investment reaching €863 million. On Wednesday 5 May, the new extension to the port of Calais was delivered, after nearly five years of work.

Since Saturday 8 May, the construction work entered the test phase, with the berthing of a first ship – the “Spirit of France” – on one of the new gangways.

It took 20 years to finalise the ambitious port extension. First mulled out in 2001, the construction of the port extension was officially launched in 2016. It will be officially inaugurated next September and receive its first regular ships from October 4.

The expansion added a new basin of 90 navigable hectares, including 45 hectares of reclaimed land from the sea. it is completed by a 3.3 km long, 8 metre high dyke built around the basin where the boats will have access. The dyke will help in protecting the port from potential swells. Larger ferries – up to 245 metres long- will now be able to dock at three new piers.

The Calais Port 2015 project stringently applied rules for the protection of local flora and fauna. The infrastructure incorporates a resting place for birds and an observatory for ornithological monitoring. Artificial habitats and nurseries for marine wildlife will also be provided both along the seawall and within the port.

The aim for all this infrastructure is to cope with cross-Channel traffic. Apart from the slowdown caused by Brexit uncertainties and the Covid-19 crisis, traffic has been growing steadily in recent years. The port of Calais is already the biggest passenger port in Europe, welcoming 10 million passengers. It is also the fourth largest goods port in France, with 43 million tonnes of freight per annum.

High potential for the UK post-Covid holiday market to Hauts-de-France

On a normal day, two ferry companies offer up to fifty departures to Dover. The mini-cruise takes about 75 minutes.

Calais’ enhanced facilities are already attracting new services and operators. The shipping company DFDS will be launching a new 230-metre vessel on 8 July. Last January, DFDS was also awarded the right to operate a new duty-free shore-based shop in the Port of Calais. The 1,100 m2 shop is expected to open in October 2021. It should be particularly attractive for British travellers as it will offer prices up to 50% off UK high street prices.

The new shops should also be a boost for the toruism to the Hauts-de- France region where Calais is located.

In between, Irish Continental Group plc (ICG) announced in March that its subsidiary Irish Ferries would commence a new ferry service on the Dover – Calais route.

The service is due to start this June, with one boat – the Isle of Inishmore- travelling along the new maritime route. Additional capacity will be added with two more ships arriving at the end of 2021 and in 2022.

Calais and the Hauts-de-France region still believe strongly in the potential of the UK market, Despite the Brexit, British travellers should remain the largest inbound market source. Back in 2018, the UK generated 36% of the 3.6 million international overnight stays in hotels and outdoor accommodation in the Hauts-de-France region.

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