Relaxed Brexit Border Infrastructure Welcome but Not Enough Warns British Ports Association

On 24 September a new development order was applied, in named areas of England, relating to the requirement to check and process vehicles on entry into the United Kingdom as well as facilities for drivers and border staff. The order gives specific government border departments such as HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) and the Department for Transport (DfT) the ability to apply to the Secretary of State to add infrastructure to its ports which will prove beneficial once the UK break away from the Single Market and Customs Union.

Approval by the British Ports Association

This order has been welcomed by the logistics industry, including the British Ports Association (BPA); however, they warn that there is still more to be done before the transition deadline. Richard Ballantyne, chief executive of the BPA said, “The legislation introduced to bypass the planning processes for border infrastructure in England is certainly a welcome move; however, there is still a lot be done to get ready for 2021. At various stages next year, new customs and border control processes will be introduced on European trade and our ports are working with the government to look at what needs to be done.”
He added that he hopes for a swift roll out of the government’s infrastructure plans, in-order that the UK’s gateway to Europe be ready.

The preparations have begun to create a physical and digital infrastructure to facilitate customs and other border procedures during transit between the UK, Europe and Northern Ireland. This could include new inspections facilities and computer systems to manage border controls that have emerged, following Britain’s exit from the Single Market and Customs Union.

Ballantyne said, “the sensible and measured implementation of the new border requirements could be essential for all parts of the freight and logistics industry.”

This order comes after a concerted effort by the Road Haulage Association and key figures from the logistics industry urged the government for a meeting over Brexit amid concerns over the slow progress that was being made.

The BPA represents 86% of port traffic in the UK, which includes major gateways such as Birkenhead, Dover, New Haven, Pembroke and Tyne. These facilities support the transport of thousands of trucks and trailers on a daily basis between Europe and the UK. This part of the industry could have the biggest impact on the new processes that are included in the new order.

Drawbacks to the New Order Identified

Following on from this, planning law expert of Pinsent Masons commented that the powers granted by the new regulations were limited to smaller developments which would not require environmental impact assessment (EIA). He explained that the development would not be able to approve new motorways or express roads over one hectare nor motorway services over 0.5 hectares unless it is proved that they will not have an untoward impact on the environment. He surmised that, “realistically…. The new order will apply to more modest changes in and around the ports.”

“Proposals must be put forward by a relevant border department – for example, HMRC – with the site owner, such as the harbour authority, only engaged on the application. Presumably, in practice, it is likely that the border department will have discussed things at length with port operators, as it is difficult to see how the border department will be best placed to lead on the necessary infrastructure to process port traffic efficiently through the port and surrounding areas.”

Heathrow Cargo

Why is Air Cargo seeing an increase since COVID-19?

According to CLIVE data services, air cargo volume saw a 12% increase in the last week of June compared to the last week of May. Niall van de Wouw, managing director of CLIVE, explains this increase was initially due to the urgent requirement of personal protective equipment (PPE) needed by governments in an attempt to contain COVID-19. Despite the international demand for PPE now beginning to diminish, Van de Wouw is confident that air cargo volume will continue to rise month on month.

“Our June analyses seems to suggest the first steps towards a structural market recovery. Despite the decreasing demand for PPE in June, we still see that the volumes increased over May. We are starting to see a more recognisable airfreight market following more logical economic principles and more logical rates.”

There is no denying that aviation has been one of the industries hit hardest by the COVID-19 pandemic. Government restrictions have prohibited entry for travellers causing ticket sales to plummet, reduced schedules and redundancies for airline staff. An increase in air cargo volume is a glimmer of hope in what has been a dark time.

How has COVID-19 impacted Air Cargo Volumes?

A number of sources have submitted their findings on how the global pandemic has affected air freight including; Veritas Global, Seabury and The International Air Cargo Association (TIACA). Alongside this, the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) have also done their own studies, which are updated and shared on a weekly basis. Despite the sheer number of agencies looking into this there continues to be a lack of reliable data but what does stand out is the following:

• Global air cargo capacity is down 35% from 2019
• 20% of belly cargo continues to fly
• Freighters capacity is showing signs of stabilising

Due to the current restrictions of passenger travel, airports are seeing a sharp decrease in their revenue forcing many to close. Despite full closures to passenger traffic, a share of airport and airside infrastructure must remain open to support air cargo which comes at a cost to a weakening cash supply.

How is TIACA Supporting the Industry?

TIACA believes that it is their permanent role to promote the air cargo industry. During the outbreak of the coronavirus, they have focused their efforts in reminding governments how important the role of the air cargo industry is to the global economy, international trade and in battling the devastating effects of COVID-19. The value of air cargo has been highlighted during the pandemic as without it the transportation of valuable medical, PPE and food supplies would not have been possible. As COVID-19 looks set to continue its impact on the world, so will the demand for medical supplies. It is vital that delivery services are able to keep up with this demand.

How have Cargo Operations Changed Due to Coronavirus?

Changes to cargo operations to mitigate the impact of coronavirus include:

• The use of passenger aircraft
• Expanded use of charter flights
• Changes in flexibility to certain regulations
• Introduction of new standard operating procedures
• Increased protection for staff

The implementation of these new operations and assessment of how effective they are is a time-consuming process and is changing everyday as we learn more about the novel virus. TIACA and other aviation organisations are pushing an initiative where a working document is created for a post COVID-19 recovery path. The main focus of this document is to suggest short, mid and long-term solutions to the issues caused by the pandemic so that the industry as a whole can recover.

What can the Industry do to Prevent this Impact from another Pandemic?

When industries such as aviation rely on governments from all over the world to collaborate and work cohesively, there needs to be a concerted effort to make things consistent. A standard that extends from one end of the world to the other.

It is clear that the implementation of new procedures to prepare ourselves for a future crisis are required; particularly, relating to health and safety in the workplace. Emergency plans will need to be drawn up and implemented to ensure that if another pandemic were to occur that industries would have systems in place to mitigate the effects that were able to destroy everything so quickly and in such a short space of time. This will involve analysis, risk assessments, training sessions and re-writing standard operating procedure. For aviation in particular, more consideration needs to be given to air cargo and how we can keep operations going in the face of a crisis. The air cargo industry has proved invaluable during the COVID-19 pandemic; however, more support needs to be given to be able to provide that invaluable service in the future.