Wednesday, November 14, 2018

European Commission Not Dealing With Permits for Road Haulage Operators and RoRo Traffic Concerns

Communique from Brussels Has No Viable Plan says Freight Association
Shipping News Feature
UK – As the slew of Brexit communications continues unabated, indeed increases as the Cabinet ponders over the 'final deal', comes comment from the Freight Transport Association (FTA) should the end result finish without an acceptable conclusion to any of the parties involved and Britain, and Europe, have to face the no-deal scenario we hear so much about. Concerns previously expressed over the paucity of EU permits for road haulage operators and the lack of preparedness dealing with RoRo operations are both commented on.

The FTA was responding to the communication issued by the European Commission on November 13 which details contingency actions in this event. The communique outlines legislative preparedness proposals including the apportionment between the UK and the EU27, of tariff rate quotas included in the goods schedule of the European Union at the World Trade Organisation.

The European Commission refers regularly in the document to the UK becoming ‘a third country’, an expression which sums up neatly the Commission’s attitude to the coalition of states, not one commonly held by British citizens, many of whom still think of the EU as a Common Market of individual states, as opposed to a single country.

The Commissions attitude can be illustrated by the opening sentence in the expressed view regarding contingency measures ‘Contingency measures should not replicate the benefits of membership of the Union, nor the terms of any transition period.’ Many involved in trade with the EU will view such a statement with some misgivings and remark that ‘benefits’ in terms of trade, are a two way street. The FTA then has advised of its own industry perspective thus, with its own statement from Pauline Bastidon, head of European Policy:

“This Communication falls well short of the logistics sector’s expectations. Measures taken would only be temporary, ending at the latest at the end of 2019, and the European Commission could unilaterally revoke them at any time. This is no base on which companies can operate efficiently. The range of proposed measures is also completely insufficient. While basic provisions are suggested for aviation, which is a good thing for segments of the economy relying on air freight, the European Commission simply does not have a plan for road haulage.

“The Communication merely recognises that there will not be enough ECMT permits to cover the needs of vehicles travelling between the UK and EU but offers no solution. Considering the range of industries and time-sensitive supply chains relying on the roll-on, roll off (RoRo) model, as well as the volume of trucks crossing the UK-EU borders every day, this is reckless. The European Commission warns member states not to engage in bilateral discussions with the UK, but what is the alternative if no EU solution is to be expected?

“It is also disappointing, if predictable, to see that no adaptations to customs and sanitary requirements will be made, even in the short term. Very little is said about the impact of checks on the traffic on both sides of the border. Even more concerning, the Communication seems to suggest that the UK might not be listed as an authorized third country for the export of agri-food products from the UK, meaning that UK agri-food products could get barred from entering the EU market, at least for a few weeks/months.

“In short, this list of contingency measures falls well short of industry’s needs and expectations. We can only hope that a deal gets ratified in time or that the European Commission reviews it's plans completely. Pursuing the course outlined by the EU’s contingency plans would be a recipe for disaster, for the supply chain and the UK economy.”

Meanwhile for its part the Road Haulage Association (RHA) has criticised Transport Secretary Chris Grayling’s plans to expand the port of Ramsgate in an attempt to bypass the Dover-Calais bottleneck, something it says is inevitable in the event of a disorderly Brexit. The RHA says the proposed service will require larger trucks which in turn will require a deeper draft for vessels. Ramsgate is currently not used to dealing with HGV ferry traffic.

Up to £200 million has been earmarked for the development of the port with back-up plans for increased freight traffic and truck parking at the nearby port of Sheerness. However, Ramsgate is currently unable to accommodate large vessels. Commenting, RHA Chief Executive Richard Burnett said:

“This planning to upgrade Ramsgate port operations has come too late to be effective if there is a no-deal Brexit. The port needs dredging, ferries need to be procured and proper crossing routes established. Contingency planning of this type should have been done two years ago, not just 136 days to Brexit. It’s completely impractical to see a shift of traffic from Dover to Ramsgate in this timescale, it takes time to launch new services and time to recruit and train new staff.”

Photo: The RHA points out the current unsuitability of Ramsgate as a major RoRo ferry port.