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Strait of Dover Pas-de-Calais, Kent, Nord, West Vlaanderen

General presentation of the strait:

The Strait of Dover is defined as the territory that marks the passage of the sea basin of the Channel to the North Sea and the border between Great Britain (Dover) and the European continent (Calais, France). The Strait is only 32km (20 miles) wide and shallow (sometimes only 20 metres).

The strait is one of the busiest seaways in the world. On both sides of the strait, ports are of particular importance: the ports of Dover and Calais are Europe's busiest passenger ferry ports, despite the opening of the Channel Tunnel 1994. This confirms the importance and the almost continuous growth of the cross-Channel flows. The ports of Boulogne-sur-mer and Calais are, respectively, the first French port for sea fishing and the fourth for commercial traffic.

The strait is also particularly important for its biodiversity value, fisheries, landscape value, cultural significance and tourism.

Description of the strait

The Strait of Dover is rich in designated sites for biodiversity: on the Kent side, Special Areas of Conservation (SAC’s), Special Protection Areas (SPA’s) and Ramsar sites exist. At low tide, many habitats such as chalk reefs are of recognised importance; under the Marine and Coastal Access Act, there are currently six recommended Marine Conservation Zones (rMCZ), in the Strait of Dover. Final designation will be decided in 2013.

Within the area of the Grand Site de France, about 15 pre-empting zones (zones that are defined as priority for local authority acquisition) exist, representing 1 200 ha already owned by the Conservatoire du littoral or the General Council of Pas-de-Calais. Management plans are developed for high value sites, among which “le Bois d’Haringzelle”, les “Dunes de Slack”, “la pointe aux Oies” or “la pointe de la Crèche”. French Marine Protected Areas lie adjacent to the offshore rMCZ’s.

The strait also comprises remarkable landscapes – recognised by the Parc Naturel Régional des Caps et Marais d’Opale and the Kent Downs AONB (Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty), along with other designations. For the UK, the chalk cliffs have significant value in terms of national identity, with cultural associations going back for centuries.

On the French part, the ‘Site des Deux Caps’, has recently won the prestigious designation “Grand Site de France”.

The strait of Dover is a pinch point for the traffic of boats coming from or going to major ports in the North Sea and from the Baltic Sea. Its strategic and economic interest for Europe is therefore very high. As it is likely that in the next 30 years the intensity of international maritime traffic and size of containers will increase, this interest will also rise. This is why a major new port - London Gateway – will open on the Essex coast in 2013, partly to meet this demand. On the French side, the port of Dunkerque is developing a high capacity liquefied natural gas terminal, in order to secure energy supply, while the project “Calais Port 2015”, in addition to its impact on Channel’s flows, will allow increased capacity for cargo ships. Consequently, the ports of Dover and Calais expect to build new terminals that will come into service in the next few years. The liberalisation of international railway passenger transport in 2013 should lead to an increase of the flows in the Tunnel, which still has capacity for further growth.

Cross-boundary cooperation in the strait

A Kent – Pas-de-Calais Agreement was signed in 2005: this centered on joint activities including tourism, sports, arts and culture. Since 2009 this Agreement had also envisaged a joint bid for UNESCO World Heritage status for the strait. Kent County Council (KCC) and Pas-de-Calais General Council launched the European Straits Initiative whose Memorandum of Understanding was signed in November 2010 with 13 EU partners. This initiative has identified the need to strengthen cooperation projects – including NOSTRA.

The INTERREG IVA project CAMIS (Channel Arc Manche Integrated Strategy) has examined maritime pollution issues, including those for the Strait of Dover. Links will be made between CAMIS and NOSTRA in order to capitalise on both projects’ results.

On an operational level, the French CROSS (Centre regional opérationnel de surveillance et de sauvetage) and the British Maritime and Coastguard Agency, are in constant contact.

Main environmental challenges of the strait

Given the increase in maritime traffic in the strait of Pas de Calais (French name of the Strait of Dover) and notably, the hundreds of thousands of tons of hazardous materials that cross it, the management of environmental risks is a major issue. Even without any shipping accident, whose impact would certainly be both terrestrial and maritime, the intensity of up, down and cross-Channel traffic puts pressure on marine ecosystems. Coastal developments (dykes, docks…), because they alter marine currents, also have an impact on marine ecosystems and on coastal erosion and therefore, on the risk of maritime submersion in the context of sea level rise and multiplying climate hazards. Maintaining or increasing protection of the maritime and terrestrial part of the strait is thus essential. Identification of joint governance tools adapted for the management of adjacent protected marine areas, notably through the analysis of good practices throughout Europe, will be required.

Finally, the land/seascape value of the strait comprises a significant resource in terms of identity culture and tourism for the inhabitants of Kent and Pas-de-Calais.


Conseil Départemental du Pas-de-Calais
Direction Europe et International
Hôtel du Département
Rue Fernand Buisson
62018 Arras Cedex
Contact person: Colette Marie
Tél. : +33(0)321 219 205
Courriel : Colette Marie

Kent County Council
Invicta House, County Hall
ME14 1XX
Maidstone, Kent
Contact person: Ron Moys, Head of International Policy
Phone: +44 (0)1622 221943
Ron Moys

Conseil Départemental du Nord
Direction des relations internationales
Hôtel du Département
51, rue Gustave Delory
59047 LILLE Cedex
Contact person: Amaury Devaere
Phone: +33 3 59 73 57 18
Amaury Devaere

Nord - Le Département

De Provincie West Vlaanderen
Leopold III-laan 41
8200 St.-Andries/Brugge
Contact person: Liesbet Lefevere
Phone: +32 50 40 34 36
Liesbet Lefevere

West flanders Province


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