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France's Channel ports gear up for Brexit

The Hauts-de-France seaports (BoulogneCalais, Dunkirk) and Eurotunnel will get a new Cargo Community System from MGI, called Channel Pass, open to all operators in the EU

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France's Channel ports gear up for Brexit

In 2018, the company responsible for managing the Port of Dunkirk’s Cargo Community System (CCS Hauts-de-France) approached MGI to carry out a study on ro-ro cross-channel flows along the Côte d’Opale, taking into account the specifics of each shipping and railway operator and the configuration of port facilities and Getlink (Eurotunnel).


This study has led to the creation of what MGI says is "an innovative and agile solution for France’s busiest shipping route, called Channel Pass."


Channel Pass is described as a next-generation Ci5 Cargo Community System (CCS), built on modern architecture and open source technologies, incorporating innovations from Big Data, IoT, AI and "smart" containers.


The Calais and Dunkirk ferries and Getlink truck shuttles account for 4.3M trucks a year, practically all accompanied, and are thus critically exposed to post-Brexit border friction. At peak times, truck shuttles leave Coquelles for the UK every 20 minutes, while ferries depart from Calais very 40 minutes and from Dunkirk every 2 hours, making for extremely short turnaround times.


The study identified the practices of the various public and private players in the cross-channel transit process and assessed the impact of potential customs and administrative procedures associated with Brexit.


Jean-Charles Le Gall, Managing Director of CCS Hauts-de-France, said: "The primary need is to maintain smooth transit via existing port and railway infrastructure to avoid losing market share. The Channel Pass solution provided by MGI perfectly meets this requirement by creating a blockchain between the various supply chain operators and government services that is open to all, especially given that a large proportion of goods come from other European countries.


"This system needs at least to be deployed by all operators in the Côte d’Opale area to continue providing flexibility and interoperability.”


Dominique Lebreton, MGI Audits, Projects and Marketing Director, said: “MGI has 30 years of recognised expertise in ro-ro traffic between Marseilles and countries outside the European Union, via its CCSs. The Channel ports are facing three challenges: maintaining their competitiveness, providing fast port transit and preparing for logistics operations.


"The study carried out with our client, CCS Hauts-de-France, helped us come up with a highly innovative service that takes into account the specific characteristics of this traffic. Implementation of Ci5 with Channel Pass will ensure smooth goods transit and prepare for the transfer of information between all supply chain players for both imports and exports. Channel Pass will enable shippers, transport companies, forwarding agents and inspection authorities to transfer information and use standardised procedures easily.”


This single solution for the Hauts-de-France region is open to all operators in the EU. Operators will all be connected to the same system, and will be able to exchange securely electronic documents, manage their activity and track the status of goods up to customs clearance. Requests to transfer from one loading terminal to another along with customs, veterinary and plant health inspection requests will also all be managed via Ci5.


"A mobile version of Channel Pass will be available to give professionals easy on-the-ground access to the solution, and its functions will maintain the flexibility and response times of existing import and export logistics processes," said MGI.

The work-to-rule shows how vulnerable JIT supply chains are to border controls. (Photo: AFP)
The work-to-rule shows how vulnerable JIT supply chains are to border controls. (Photo: AFP)

Last summer, Gérald Darmanin, France’s Budgets Minister, promised that 200 extra customs officials would be recruited in Dunkirk and Calais to meet the Brexit border challenge, both commercial freight and tourist traffic.


This month, customs officials have been staging a work-to-rule protest to highlights the problems they will face dealing with a much bigger workload.


Darmanin said the work-to-rule is not necessary, since new digital developments will allow targeting of specific shipments and pre-controls before the physical border is reached. Things will go smoothly from March and April, he stated.


This prompts the question why digital solutions cannot solve the Irish "backstop" problem!


In the event, the work-to-rule has caused long tailbacks at the Eurotunnel and ferry truck and passenger car terminals, and at the Eurostar terminals in London, Paris and Brussels.


Ports in the western Channel are also preparing for Brexit. France’s national Brexit coordinator Vincent Pourquery stated last year that "the port of Le Havre has the necessary tools" to cope with a possible hard Brexit, due to strong cooperation with and between Brittany Ferries, SOGET, customs, veterinary services and border police.


Le Havre is also the only French port to have BIP/CEP status for phytosanitary inspections. The SOGET "S)One" cargo community system means that 99% of containers arriving at Le Havre are virtually inspected without any increase in transit time and the service is being extended to the ro-ro freight arrivals.

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