Thursday, March 23, 2023

In post-Brexit UK, quiet ports hide growing transport chaos | Brexit news

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A week after Brexit, the main road to Dover has been so quiet that authorities were able to close half of it on Thursday for a garbage collection operation without causing delays for drivers.

But behind such placid scenes, many truckers still warn of chaos as they struggle to adjust to the new red tape required by Britain’s departure from the European Union. Drivers are held up for hours because they don’t have the right documents, they say.

With traffic well below normal levels, the pain has so far manifested itself out of sight at factory gates and trucker depots. It is likely to spread to ports as activity rebounds in the coming days, according to seven companies polled by Bloomberg.

“It’s an absolute mess,” said David Zaccheo, operations director at Alcaline UK Ltd., whose fleet of 145 vehicles commute between Britain and the EU. “What’s going to happen next week?” We’re not even that busy right now.

Zaccheo said his company has had vehicles stranded in Italy since Monday due to a lack of correct transit documents. In another case, a trailer bound for Milan had to wait two days in the UK before it could move because it did not have the correct papers, he said.

Faced with the threat of border chaos in the weeks following Brexit, many companies have moved to stockpile goods or delay deliveries, leaving Dover eerily calm. Traffic through the port is down 85% from its 2019 average. As the industry expects activity to pick up in the coming days, Britain faces the first major test of its preparation for Brexit.

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The Cabinet Office, the government department responsible for Brexit preparations, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

While the UK may have struck a trade deal with the EU by avoiding tariffs and quotas, businesses are facing new frictions affecting cross-border trade. Businesses now have to fill out forms like customs declarations and export health certificates that were unnecessary when Britain was a member of the bloc. The problem, according to some logistics companies, is that many customers do not understand what documents are needed.

Ellis Blackham, account manager at JJX Logistics, a Kingswinford, England-based company that transports goods from the UK to the EU, said it took six hours – at least three times longer than d usual – to load one of his trucks with pharmaceuticals. products destined for Germany because the customer did not have the appropriate documents.

“It’s a nightmare,” Blackham said. “It starts at the top and goes all the way down, the level of confusion.”

He said another company sent them a pallet of manufactured goods to ship to France, but did not provide any accompanying documents. They were surprised when told it wouldn’t be possible to send it, Blackham said.

“ Massively confused ”

“Customers don’t really know what they need,” he says. “I don’t expect it to be until March at least before people get acquainted.”

Bowker Group, a Preston, England-based company that brings freight to the EU, said it had a chemicals trailer stranded at a dock in Belgium for more than two days this week due to the confusion as to who was responsible for customs clearance.

“It’s fighting fires all the time right now,” said Jason Tiffen, director of international operations at Bowker. “Customs clearance officers are overworked and under-resourced.”

The industry has long warned of a shortage of qualified personnel to complete the 400 million additional customs declarations that will be needed each year for goods moving between Britain and the EU at a cost of around 13 billion pounds ($ 18 billion).

The Customs Clearance Consortium, which helps run a UK government-backed program to help traders with forms, told customers this week there was still a “huge shortage” of officers.

“The first days of the new rules were very difficult,” said Robert Hardy, co-founder of the consortium. “There are so many new processes and an extremely steep learning curve.”


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