UK Customs Foto 137065559 © Ben Gingell

UK ports face a “shit show” from 1 October, if even a fraction of the traders not yet using the country’s new customs declaration system fail to migrate before the September deadline.

And European shippers say it could be yet another hurdle for exporters.

From October, UK imports will run through updated online system the Customs Declaration Service (CDS), as HMRC terminates support for the Customs Handling Imports and Exports Freight Platform (CHIEF) – but, with 14 weeks to go, many users have yet to make the switch.

HMRC last week reached out to 220,000 UK businesses telling them they needed to get prepped for the 30 September deadline. But some believe the deadline may be postponed.

However, one forwarder told The Loadstar: “There are some that think the government will just announce a delay, but I do not envisage them putting it back – they seem keen to stick to it.

“Once it’s switched, it’s switched and, if even 10% of those who’ve yet to migrate to CDS don’t, that’s a shit show at the port.”

And CEO of the British Ports Association Richard Ballantyne told The Loadstar ports had been keeping a “close eye” on developments, adding: “Ports are still wary of some operational impacts and, while the customs software suppliers might be prepared, we are not sure about the readiness of the importers.

“We are not expecting any major disruptions at the border, although delays to the processing of goods is a threat. It’s not our number-one ask, but we feel government should be exploring contingency arrangements, as we had with Brexit.”

Other sources agreed that any sort of deadline delay was “unthinkable”, as the UK appeared set to press ahead with the switchover, but Mr Ballantyne said this view may not be shared on the other side of the Channel.

“With the recent announcement regarding delays to phytosanitary checks on trade with the EU, it is possible that some declarants will be expecting the September deadline to be extended,” he said.

“We are not that close on the process, but would imagine that HMRC is exploring all options and look forward to supporting its efforts to promote the changes across industry.”

A spokesperson for the European Shippers Council said any disruption after the deadline would not be the consequence of UK government policy but “negligence in the trader community” and added that the ECS “sincerely hopes” the trade facilitation committee finds ways to increase awareness.

“Otherwise, this would be another hurdle in trade with the UK, and the ESC hopes we can avoid this and that trade between the EU and UK can continue and hopefully grow, despite all challenges ahead because of the new legislation proposed for the Irish-North Ireland situation. From an EU perspective, this is a bomb under the UK-EU trade agreement.”

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