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Port of Rotterdam: "most traders not ready for Brexit"

While warehouses in the port of Rotterdam fill up with cargo waiting for "the last truck to the UK," an estimated 60-70% of all parties involved in shipping cargo to and from the UK have still not registered with Portbase

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Port of Rotterdam: "most traders not ready for Brexit"

While warehouses in the port of Rotterdam fill up with cargo waiting for "the last truck to the UK," an estimated 60-70% of all parties involved in shipping cargo to and from the UK have still not registered with Portbase.

 

Portbase is the NPO that manages the digital port infrastructure and core processes in Rotterdam and Amsterdam (75:25 shareholders). Its Port Community System handling customs formalities has been in place in the Dutch ports for over a decade and in the past few months has been adapted specifically to meet the ro-ro ferry business’s requirements. The accompanied trucking sector is giving the most concern.

"

We still miss a large number of smaller Eastern European haulage companies," Portbases’s Director Iwan van der Wolf told WorldCargo News. He reiterated that registration is a requirement for hauliers to file digital customs documentation of any trailer’s cargo in advance. Without registration, the trailer will not be permitted to enter a UK-bound ferry terminal.

 

In an addendum, Portbase noted that it is still seeking about 600-700 companies in order to have the estimated 1,000 companies in its system to ensure a reasonable coverage – in terms of aggregate cargo volume – to make the solution work. It is calling upon the ferry operators to urge their customers to register with the digital community system. When referring to ‘all parties’, Portbase means shippers (import and export), haulage companies (self-driver and unaccompanied) and forwarders. For the shortsea lo-lo container market, primarily shippers (import and export) are being sought, as most forwarders will already be in the system following their deepsea business with other continents.

Extract from the port's multi-lingual hand-out for truck drivers. (All photos: Provoice)
Extract from the port's multi-lingual hand-out for truck drivers. (All photos: Provoice)

Given the concern that some 400 driver-accompanied trucks per day might not comply with the regulations once the UK is no longer an EU member, the port authority (HbR) has opened five contingency parking lots with an aggregate 700-plus trucks’ buffer capacity.

 

Drivers parked in these lots will be allowed 24h to have their client or transport planner get the formalities in order; or leave the parking lot the next day.

 

Van der Wolf was speaking at a press event organised by HbR for international media to publicise its Brexit contingency preparations. “Actually, the solution is ready. The key is to get people connected, and that is primarily the ferry operators’ responsibility," he said.

 

Full customs formalities will be required once the UK leaves the EU (if it does!!!). The UK will become a third country on 13th April -which last week became the new Brexit date (put back from 29th March) - if there is "no deal." The leaving day will be 22nd May if a deal is agreed before 13th April.

 

Given the political turmoil in the UK, nobody knows when, or if, Brexit, will happen, but ports have to proceed on the basis that the Brexit vote will be honoured and make preparations accordingly.

Neele-Vat Logistics' warehouse on the Maasvlakte is ready for Brexit
Neele-Vat Logistics' warehouse on the Maasvlakte is ready for Brexit

On that basis, Rotterdam, like any other EU27 port, will become an EU border with the UK and trade has to be handled in the same way as with, say, Vietnam, Uruguay or Ethiopia.

 

HbR’s External Affairs Manager Mark Dijk stated that, given the potential import tariffs, Rotterdam could lose 30-40% of its 40 Mtpa of UK cargo, depending on whether there is a deal or a "no deal," in which case the WTO template will kick in.

 

The Dutch national food and consumer safety authority (NVWA) says that it, too, is ready for a no deal Brexit provided, said Liesbeth Kooijman, Head of Import Inspection, the industry has its IT systems in order, "otherwise you won’t get your certificate in time.”

 

UK exporters of foodstuffs will be allowed to send digitally in advance a copy of their certificate from the UK Food Standards Authority to speed up clearance, while the original "wet-stamped" certificate will then be checked later.

 

Livestock coming from the UK will be a snag, however, as the NVWA’s inspection facilities are at Amsterdam and Maastricht airports. Effectively, this will bar any livestock (horses, pets and otherwise) from the UK entering the EU through Rotterdam. A livestock inspection station is being discussed, but nothing is tangible yet, she added.

 

The NVWA’s total workload of export certification for vegetable and animal products will be doubled on account of the vast volume of Dutch exports to UK. Inbound, UK exports will involve an estimated 30% inspections increase. The NVWA has recruited some 100 vets, partly from Southern Europe, solely to cope with Brexit. Its total workforce has increased by 130 staff.

 

Dutch customs has meanwhile recruited around 500 new staff of a total 750 to 930 required (bilateral trade deal yes or no), 300 of whom have meanwhile been trained. The total number of Dutch companies EORI-registered with Dutch customs has increased by 40%, mainly involving exporters/importers who so far had business within the EU only, Mrs. Nanette van Schelven, its national head said.

One of five Brexit contingency truck parking lots. This one takes 290 driver-accompanied trucks
One of five Brexit contingency truck parking lots. This one takes 290 driver-accompanied trucks

She noted that Brexit will yield an additional 750,000 customs import declarations (+18%) and an additional 4.2M export declarations, 32% more than the entire pre Brexit volume, thus underscoring the sheer scale of the €20B per annum international goods trade between the UK and the Netherlands.

 

When asked if there has been any close co-operation with the national UK customs authority to absorb the steep increase and the initial teething problems, Mrs Van Schelven stated that "contacts have not extended beyond normal operational exchanges.

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