Despite the lack of lorries at borders since the UK left the EU Single Market and Customs Union, various sources have highlighted significant disruption to goods being transported citing post-Brexit red tape as the cause. This is having a significant impact on the trading of goods with plant or animal origins.
The Scottish fishing industry have been struggling with confusion and uncertainty following the implementation of the deal agreed on Christmas Eve between the UK and EU governments. Some firms have seen major delays with some of their shipments being halted until 18th January due to issues with health checks, computer systems and customs paperwork which is leading to a big backlog as reported by the Guardian. As a result of this, many seafood shipments heading to France and Spain have been rejected because of the delay.
Due to backlog, the DFDS, the UK seafood industry’s largest logistics provider has suspended its groupage export service which allows exporters to group their shipments together in one consignment. This was decided only a week after the new trade deal was implemented. DFDS are expecting to resume deliveries next Monday but are warning that the service would be expected to take a lot longer than what it would before Brexit and is highlighting the importance of correct and accurate paperwork.
Other companies such as Danish ro-ro shipping and logistics operator have said that they endeavour to fix IT issues and provide more training to their staff to help customers complete the required customs paperwork and achieve a smoother process.
DB Schenker Faces Challenges
DB Schenker has highlighted the significant challenges it has faced relating to the introduction of the new customs formalities that now apply to shipments as a result of Brexit. Following the suit of many other providers, they have also placed a hold on all shipments being sent to the UK.
The provider has found that only 10% of customs documents submitted with shipments have been complete and free of errors. To try and manage this situation effectively the company have redeployed staff from their Brexit Task Force that was established over a year ago.
In a statement, they said: “DB Schenker expects shipping volumes to increase further in January. Logistics service providers can only process consignments quickly if the share of correct and complete customs documents also increases significantly. Both shipper and consignees need to ensure that compliant documents are provided.”
Cross border e-commerce trade expert, Hurricane Commerce warned that the struggles faced by UK businesses in the first few weeks of the new regulations being implemented are the “tip of the iceberg” and that severe challenges should be anticipated.
This comes as parcel carrier, DPD, was also forced to pause its road service from the UK to Ireland and Europe until the end of last week due to customs clearance issues with post-Brexit parcels.
Customs Clearance Staff Shortages
Another challenge that firms have desperately tried to mitigate before 31st December was the sourcing of a sufficient number of customs clerks to be trained up and ready before the implementation of the new trading regime. Speaking last Autumn, Barney Weston, managing director of Oceanic Resources International warned that serious shortage was unavoidable.
On the current situation, he said: “I think most (firms) managed to get the bulk of their teams in place before the end of the year, but training and ‘filling the gaps’ continues. In most cases a Customs and Compliance Manager/ Brexit Head is in place (in firms) giving the strategic lead on how to handle the UK’s new trading relationship.”
He went on to say: “I know that in many cases training and upskilling is on-going, and there is still high demand for people to fill customs clerk positions, but it’s hard to accurately quantify this in numbers. Certainly, anyone who has ever sniffed a customs clearance in their career history is still worth their weight in gold!”
“I think the whole industry will have a clearer picture on the situation by the end of the month; so much was unknown heading into Brexit. I think that shortly people will know if they can handle demand with the current staff levels or if more will be needed.”
“One positive; I spoke with a top 5 UK supermarket earlier this week who we have been assisting in building their customs teams, and so far, everything is working.”
British International Freight Association have confirmed that its freight forwarder members appear to be managing the challenges with a spokesperson for the association saying, “(Members) are learning the new systems as they go – (there were) hard lessons learnt but they are getting to grips with the situation in exceptionally difficult circumstances. BIFA has always said that the preparing and lodging of customs declarations was the relatively easy part of the new procedures, and the bigger issues would be with non-tariff matters such as safety and security entries and SPS controls. That has already been seen.”
BIFA director general, Robert Keen commented, “We receive calls asking technical questions on procedures but so far as we can gauge the members are very busy but coping.”
Another source close to BIFA said, “(Evidence) suggests that cross border trade last week was very quiet; probably because of pre 1st January stockpiling and companies waiting to see how things pan out. The people I have spoken to expect increased volumes this week, but nowhere near normal. So, we probably won’t get to see the true picture for some time. And who knows what the new normal will be?”