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Beyond Brexit: Preparing the freight market for 2021

Posted by Chambers and Cook on Oct 13, 2020 11:26:14 AM

Lloyd’s Loading List, in association with Lloyd’s List and the Institute of Export and International Trade, will hold a webinar on 28 October to discuss what freight businesses should be doing to prepare themselves for the end of the UK’s transition period from the European Union (EU) and the new trading environment that will emerge from 1 January. 

With guest speakers from the ports, logistics and ocean carrier sectors, the one-hour webinar will seek to inform on best practice in preparing for trade after Brexit, including customs clearances, border infrastructure, procedures, risk and liability and mitigating uncertainties. Panellists will include Kevin Shakespeare, Trade Director for the Institute of Export and International Trade and Martin Meacock, Director, Product Management, Descartes Systems UK, with James Baker, Containers Editor for Lloyd’s List, acting as discussion moderator, while other speakers will be announced shortly. 

Topics covered will include: The impact Brexit will have on customs clearances; What new border infrastructure will be required? What uncertainties remain and how can they be mitigated? New procedures that will need to be followed; Industry best practice and what good preparation will look like; How can the freight sector manage risk and liability?

The webinar aims to “shine a light on best practice in preparing for European trade after 2020”. With the UK set to complete the transition period of its departure from the EU at the end of the year, for the freight business, “that leaves little time to prepare for the new realities of trade”, the organisers highlighted.

“The UK’s decision to leave the EU is about to finally come fully into effect with the end of the Brexit transition period on December 31. For the UK’s freight ecosystem, this is going to mean massive changes in how it does business with its European trading partners.

“At time of writing, negotiations are still ongoing over whether there will be a free trade deal; but even if there is, frictionless trade between the UK and Europe will be a thing of the past. What it will mean for carriers, freight forwarders, ports, hauliers and cargo owners remains to be seen; but it is certain that changes will be required in many aspects of doing business.”

Many are warning that a major government and cross-industry effort is needed to ensure hauliers and shippers are prepared for the potential issues arising from the end of the transition period.

UK government predictions

Michael Gove, the UK minister responsible for Brexit planning, recently wrote to logistics groups warning of disruption to imports and exports, particularly through the Channel port of Dover. Gove said the flow of freight between Dover and Calais could be reduced by as much as 80%, while as many as 70% of trucks travelling to the EU may not be ready for new border controls. This led to warnings of 70-mile tailbacks leading to Dover and the proposed introduction of a Kent Access Pass for truck drivers entering the county.

While these may be exaggerated warnings, significant changes will be required nonetheless. New physical and digital infrastructure is being prepared to facilitate customs and other borders processes on freight being transported between Britain and Europe, and also for Northern Irish traffic, the organisers note. This includes new inspection facilities and IT systems to undertake the new frontier controls on trade, which will come in as a result of the UK’s departure from the Single Market and the Customs Union.

Continuing concerns

Nevertheless, as reported in Lloyd’s Loading List, representatives from all sides of the freight transport and logistics landscape have highlighted major concerns about preparations for the end of this year.

Indeed, a logistics consultant representing small and medium enterprise (SME) cargo owners last week warned that UK importers and exporters, and those that trade with and represent them, must act now to prepare and protect their businesses and secure their trade with their EU suppliers and customers ahead of the significant process changes at the end of this year, when the UK’s transition period from European Union (EU) rules expires. He noted that many companies, especially SMEs, still lack sufficiently clear information about what to do before Great Britain’s exit from the EU’s single market and customs union from 1 January.

And following a recent survey of its members, the British International Freight Association (BIFA) reported last month that a majority of respondents have significant reservations over whether they will have the capacity to handle the major changes to the UK’s trading relationship at the start of 2021, such as new customs documentation and procedures. Nearly two thirds – 64% of respondents – felt they would not have sufficient staff to undertake the additional customs-related work that will be required from 1 January, a proportion that has risen significantly since a similar survey was conducted in May.

Brexit and Beyond: Preparing the freight market for 2021 takes place on 28 October at 3pm GMT/UTC. Further information can be found via the following link:


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