Thursday, May 21, 2020

Government Statement of Future Northern Irish Logistics Processes Welcomed by Freight Lobby

Meantime We All Have to Consider the Pandemic as a Guide to Assist Lockdown Exit Published
Shipping News Feature

UK – The Northern Ireland protocol paper, announced by Michael Gove MP this week has been well received by the Freight Transport Association (FTA), whilst the industry lobby group has also simultaneously launched a Good Practice Guide for dealing with the Covid-19 epidemic in partnership with the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport (CILT).

The Cabinet Office minister outlined plans with regard to the obligations it signed up to in the Northern Ireland protocol and its EU exit deal proposal. The UK government has confirmed it will not levy tariffs on goods which will remain within its territory, with only those items going to the EU or deemed at risk of further distribution to incur a charge. According to the government there will be no export documentation, exit declarations, customs formalities or regulatory checks on goods leaving Great Britain for Northern Ireland, and no additional infrastructure in ports in Great Britain.

According to Seamus Leheny, FTA’s Northern Ireland policy manager, the announcement is an encouraging step towards guaranteeing NI’s businesses unfettered access to the rest of UK trade while ensuring continued frictionless trade with the EU. However, there is cause for concern within the declaration, with the UK government’s acknowledgement that there will be some limited additional processes on goods arriving into Northern Ireland including some checks on agrifood products that will be required at Northern Irish ports or airports. He commented:

“The need to check fresh produce and other agrifood products will need new or expanded infrastructure to be installed at a matter of urgency at all NI airports and ports, and these will need to be operated in conjunction with the NI executive. The frequency and nature of these checks must be determined by the special joint committee between the UK and EU as a matter of urgency, so that all necessary arrangements can be made in a timely fashion, and staff trained to the relevant standards and processes.

“NI’s economy relies on the seamless movement of goods and services to and from Great Britain and the announcement will give reassurance to Irish businesses that these trading relationships should continue with minimal interruption. However, the likelihood is that some additional process will be needed to move goods into NI and this could create delays and additional costs which must be avoided if possible.

“Logistics operators in NI have been concerned for some time about the new trading environment in which they will be expected to operate, and the constraints this may place on the ‘just in time’ supply chain. [Mr Gove’s] declaration is a positive first step in ensuring the GB-NI supply chain, but more information is urgently needed to reassure operators that trade can continue to flow freely without unnecessary charges or delays.”

”It is imperative that the UK government continues to engage closely with the local NI business community to ensure that any new systems are efficient and easy to employ, to protect the Northern Irish economy from any unnecessary costs or delays. The government states that it will utilise technology in surveillance of trade between Northern Ireland and Great Britain to avoid any potential exploitation of the new protocol agreement but logistics operators will want to know how this will work in practice and what they can do to mitigate it.”

Meanwhile as industry observers watch to see the reaction of the EU to one of the trickiest phases of Britain’s exit the more pressing matter remains the current pandemic and the FTA and CILT have this week published their Good Practice Guide a document sharing practical advice from their member organisations on how transport operators and logistics businesses can restart their operations safely, effectively and quickly as the nation emerges from lockdown. David Wells, Chief Executive at FTA, observed:

“As logistics businesses seek to restart their operations, protecting their workforce from contracting COVID-19 is their priority. Using practical examples shared by the members of FTA and CILT, the Good Practice Guide for COVID-19 is a vital tool for transport operators and other businesses wanting to deliver safe environments for their staff and visitors to their facilities.

“The combined membership of our two organisations have a wealth of knowledge and insight spanning several different sectors. Their experiences will help other businesses understand how best to implement safe practices during this unprecedented time and get their operations up and running as soon and as safely as possible.”

Designed to be used in conjunction with the official UK government guidance on Safer Workplaces, the document covers key considerations including risk assessments; social distancing in the workplace; cleaning of the workplace; and PPE and face coverings. Kevin Richardson, Chief Executive, CILT, said:

“The preparation of the Good Practice Guide for COVID-19 is an excellent example of the profession coming together to share information and generate practical guidance for the logistics sector. In conjunction with official UK government guidance on Safer Workplaces, CILT, the FTA and members from both organisations have produced a document that will be of value to all of those operating in the sector to assist in the recovery and restart of activities that are essential.”

Contributions to the guide, which can be applied for HERE, have been received from some of Britain’s biggest business names, including DHL, Wincanton, Maritime and Hermes whilst the government’s own guidance on Safer Workplaces can be viewed online HERE.

Photo: Courtesy of Belfast Harbour.