Monday, January 25, 2021

Well Prepared Freight Forwarders Help Avoid Brexit Chaos

Those Which Could Planned for Political Ineptitude
Shipping News Feature

UK – Brexit has of course seen many twists and turns before settling into the reality of making it work, a task being undertaken by Customs authorities and freight forwarders alike, not to mention some continuing input from the politicians, many of whom were responsible for the whole excruciating process.

The one absolute certainty which has arisen is the increase in the amount of documentation now required to effect movement of goods between Britain and the EU. Despite knowing the vast increase in Customs entries that was about to arise, there was never going to be time to employ and train enough new staff to ensure the shipments all passed seamlessly along the supply chain with no delays.

Some in the industry realised this well before confirmation of a ‘no deal’ scenario was avoided, and in fact that avoidance has made comparatively little difference, in that extra documentation is still required despite the ‘free trade’ agreement now in place. Several leading logistics players were prepared to take the gamble that a large investment in recruitment and training would pay off if things panned out as they anticipated.

Truth be told, even the wisest could not foresee the precise outcome, but felt it imperative that things were in place prior to any final decisions on the status of the UK were confirmed. Some were hindered by being under the control of international groups with regard to the investment required to prepare for the worst, however independent forwarders were free to choose their own fate.

One such was Dartford headquartered Davies Turner, independent for over a century and a half, and at a key point on the route to Dover. Plans were made early, and the Kent office saw a new customs services’ floor prepared, together with similar, slightly smaller centres at some of its other UK freight hubs including Avonmouth and Manchester.

These were all staffed by newly created national customs processing teams set up in 2020 in preparation for the end of the Transition Period. The new centre in Dartford will not only house customs clearance activities but will also include a training suite to increase the number of staff at the forwarding company that have customs processing experience and qualifications.

The company operates an apprenticeship scheme with entrants spending time in all departments, giving it a skills base that is not permanently assigned to customs clearance duties but that can be tapped into with very little notice, meaning it is well placed as a business to deal with whatever challenges the sector might face.

The Dartford customs suite has been fully partitioned in line with Government Covid guidelines and each booth is fitted with two computer screens to allow staff to check company and HMRC information simultaneously. Davies Turner director Alan Williams said plans are for a 24 hour operation in the future, while the new set up allows staff to be both more productive and proactive, with an increase in staff numbers in the office of 30% whilst still observing those Government rules on social distancing. He continued:

“We have recruited over 30 new people and it will allow us to dramatically scale up the number of customs clearances that we perform. Despite the fact that the UK and EU agreed a free trade deal, customs clearances have been required for both imports and exports from 1 January, so we have been planning for a major upsurge in activity.

“At the end of the day, everything is a process. When regulations like C-TPAT in the US or the Verified Gross Mass rules came in, it was said that everything would grind to a halt, but trade has kept on flowing. It will be the same with customs clearance.”

Photo: Image courtesy Davies Turner.