Security is being tightened at a Normandy port where authorities say there has been an increase in the number of people using it with the aim of illegally entering the UK as well as a rise in goods smuggling.
Dieppe is not the biggest port for ferry passengers in the region but it is regarded as a softer option when it comes to beating security for both illegal immigrants and clandestine merchandise.
With 40,000 lorries and 265,000 passengers a year there is plenty of opportunity for criminal activity, according to port authorities. A few days ago customs officers in Dieppe seized 1.3 tonnes of contraband rolling tobacco with a street value of around â‚¬300,000 from a Romanian registered lorry.
The lorry was booked onto the Dieppe Newhaven ferry but when the driver saw that all vehicles were being inspected he did a U-turn and left the port. The lorry, carrying a consignment of child car seats, was quickly stopped by customs officers who used a mobile scanner to check its cargo and found the tobacco hidden in the middle of the load.
Officials said this is an example of why they need to tighten security. There will be more police and custom officers on duty and patrolling the access areas to the ferry port, including dog handlers. Custom officers will also be scanning lorries more frequently and police with be stopping and checking lorries before they even arrive at the port.
Officials also confirmed their commitment to the long term future of the port. There has been some concern about the future of the ferry crossing to England. Although ferry operator DFDS has confirmed that it will continue with crossings to Newhaven in the short term it has said it is concerned about the state of facilities in Newhaven which need to be updated.
Out of the 1,250 people who work at the port, around 50% depend on the channel crossing but the Newhaven line does not make money and currently the port is subsidised by the Conseil General to the tune of â‚¬14.5 million. A lot of money has been spent modernising the facilities, including a new passenger terminal. But with Franceâ€™s economic outlook gloomy it is uncertain how much money will be available in the 2014 budget.
A lot will depend on performance figures for this year. Last year the amount of goods that went through the port increased by 15%. DFDS figures show that passenger numbers increased by 2.9% in 2012 and the amount of cargo increased by 6%.
â€˜These results were attained despite the economic crisis. We want to strengthen the cross channel link which is strategically important for both England and Normandy,â€™ said a spokesman for the syndicate that runs the port.
Indeed, the syndicate believes that the portâ€™s import and export business will grow, particularly in areas such as renewable technology. There has been an increase in this sector of the business and the creation of a number of offshore wind farms along the Normandy and Brittany coastlines should bring in more business.
The spokesman added that from a regional perspective Dippe is regarded as an important port for its cross channel connections, its boating and sailing, fishing and commercial activities.