Hand drawing a red line between the UK and the rest of EU, Brexit concept.
© Andrew Norris | brexit

Hauliers and forwarders believe that in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the UK government’s simplified customs process will make no difference to the threat of delays at the Dover crossing.

HMRC noted yesterday that its Transitional Simplified Procedures (TSP) for customs “will make importing easier for an initial period of one year, should we leave the EU without a deal, to allow businesses time to prepare for usual import processes”.

It said: “Once businesses are registered for TSP, they will be able to transport goods from the EU into the UK without having to make a full customs declaration at the border, and will be able to postpone paying any import duties.”

But the Road Haulage Association (RHA) said it was “not enough”.

Chief executive Richard Burnett said: “It appears a positive step, but the sheer scale of the issue means there is simply not enough time for businesses to get ready to leave the EU.

“This is just one part of the Brexit jigsaw, with the French having still not defined their export process.

“How on earth can businesses make the necessary arrangements and plan for the future when still in the dark as to how the processes on both sides of the Channel will work?”

Other industry sources noted that unless the flows on both inbound and outbound goods were smooth, there would be congestion, and lorries from the EU would not want to come to the UK in case they couldn’t leave quickly again.

Mr Burnett said, despite “constant and incessant calls” from the RHA for clarity around the proposals, HMRC had not been “forthcoming”. And one source told The Loadstar that, in his assessment, the proposed measures appeared designed to assist only the shipper.

“There is nothing in there about helping the forwarders and the people that actually move the freight,” said one source. “It is very much geared around the shippers; in fact, I couldn’t find anything suggesting the forwarder was even allowed to apply to use the procedures.”

Under the proposal, imports of EU goods into the UK would be declared prior to the ferry arriving in Dover – although the specifics of where this would take place are vague.

Vehicles would then be free to pass through the port without examination, unless required to participate in the random selection process, requiring physical examination.

Chairman of Agency Sector Management Peter MacSwiney seemed optimistic over the proposals, but said there were still questions on how they would work in practice.

“These plans, on paper at least, would reduce the number of vehicles reporting to Customs at the frontier to (hopefully) manageable levels,” he said. “But there’s also questions over UK-EU exports requiring an entry summary declaration, as is the case for all third-country goods entering the EU by any mode of transport.

“That declaration is normally made by the carrier, but current information from HMRC suggests that this will apply to ro-ro goods from the UK also.”

However, Mr Burnett did not share Mr MacSwiney’s optimism, condemning the government for failing to provide full visibility and complete clarity on how the scheme would work.

He added: “Through no fault of its own the haulage and logistics industry is still not ready for a no-deal, no-transition Brexit in less than seven weeks.”

To find out more about Brexit and the supply chain, come to The Loadstar Live’s one-day seminar at TOC Europe in Rotterdam, on June 19th. More details soon …

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  • James Binnie

    February 05, 2019 at 5:06 pm

    Too many negative people – mainly forwarders – who cannot accept change.
    I started up a container terminal in Durban in 2007 which was entirely paperless. Shippers declare export traffic data on line to both SA Customs and the container terminal operator computer systems when the container is packed and include the container seal number. The terminal operator has drive through container gates which the truck transits non stop at +-15 km/h and the gates take a stream of photographs which are stitched together to provide a record of the condition of the container (damaged/undamaged) on arrival on terminal. Simultaneously the container number and truck licence plate are recognised. The terminal computer system advises Customs of the arrival and is subsequently given a release for shipment.

    Now to some ideas for the Brexit scenario.
    Firstly – all shippers, importers and trucking companies will have to be given Trusted Trader recognition by the Customs authorities, both in EU and in UK. This will take time and the process should have already started as, whatever deal as finally agreed between EU and UK, both parties Customs authorities will still have to track and authorise the movement of the cargo.
    On packing the truck the shipper will enter the information regarding contents, truck licence details and the electronic seal placed on the trailer into a computer system which should preferably be compatible with both EU and UK Customs computer systems to avoid double capture of data into both systems. This is perfectly possible with a little bit of co-operation since all partners should be using the harmonised customs cargo declaration system. The information is stored on both the exporting country and importing country Customs computer systems.
    Subsequently the truck arrives at the export terminal and drives through an entrance gate similar to the ones we installed in Durban plus an electronic seal recognition system, which was not really available in 2007. The terminal computer system transmits this data (truck licence and electronic seal#) to the exporting country customs system which checks the information agrees with the shippers export declaration and releases the truck for shipment after which the truck is shipped. This data exchange should be virtually instantaneous in todays world. Ideally at this point details of all trucks actually shipped on a vessel including electronic seal data should be transmitted by the load port to both the terminal operator and Customs authority in the receiving country.
    On arrival in the receiving country a similar process takes place at the port of entry, If the truck licence and electronic seal details agree with the original data supplied by the shipper and provided both the trucking company and importer hold Trusted Trader status the truck departure is authorised by Customs and the truck proceeds to the importers premises where, again, details of truck licence and electronic seal# are transmitted to the Customs computer system which will subsequently raise any necessary customs dues, VAT etc.
    It should be noted that electronic seals normally have a tamper proof capability and the seal will automatically indicate if it has been tampered with when it is interrogated by the seal reader.
    The above systems need some infrastructure at both port of shipment and at port of entry but this only needs to have electronic recognition of the truck licence plate and electronic seal# and is much simpler (and cheaper) than the Durban gate system. In fact hand held readers could be used at low volume terminals but this would involve the truck stopping for a minimal period of time.
    I can see no reason why this system should not also work also in the Channel Tunnel rail transit scenario.
    The only real losers in the above systems are the Forwarding Agents, which is probably the main reason for their unhappiness.
    If it worked in Durban in 2007 it should be able to work in EU and UK jurisdictions in 2019!!!