On Wednesday 2 June, the Flemish fishing vessel Z.571 Custos Deus unloaded its cargo of fish in a British port for the first time since Brexit. It was a test that also involved Rederscentrale and Flemish Fish Auction. “It worked, but with a lot of red tape,” says ship owner Dirk de Luc of De Haan.
The Brexit deal struck at the end of last year means fishermen can fish in British waters for another 5.5 years, but give up a quarter of their quota. So our fishermen continue to work in British waters, but they have not yet dared to unload fish in a British port. Since the UK is no longer part of the European Union, this threatens to become an administrative feat. “We are now offloading in Ireland or France,” says ship owner Dirk De Locke of Noorster Shipping Company, owner of Z.571 Custos Deus. . “But this is a turn. If the weather is too bad, the boat from Ireland will not leave. So we have to find a solution to transport through England again. The TestA was organized in consultation with Rederscentrale, the Flemish fish auction and the relevant government services.” We did this test because we are one of the Few ships carry a printer on board. This is necessary to print a label for each box. On Monday, we offloaded our cargo in Ireland, so we offered a limited catch on Wednesday only in Milford Haven, a coastal town in Wales. If things go wrong, we won’t suffer much loss. “” Three departments are involved in such a transfer: the Agricultural and Fisheries Inspectorate, the Food and Customs Agency. And of course their British counterparts. I was already home at six in the morning filling out the documents and emailing them,” Dirk says. “At 11 a.m., the ship set sail for Milford and we completed the formalities.” “Some papers turned out to be incorrect. It’s not easy: each box also contains ice, but it melts, and the weight no longer matches … I was at home making the necessary adjustments. Finally the fish were cleared. Then he went by truck to Tilbury and from there by ship to Zeebrugge. The shipment arrived Thursday at 7 p.m. and at midnight the fish was at a fish auction, being sold on Friday. This is much slower than in the past, when the fish were in Zeebrugge at ten or twelve hours. Now it takes us 36 hours.” Assessment, Dirk says: “Administrative measures also cost money.” It would be easier to see this as the transit of European products through England to Europe. But the British would not accept it. It is really seen as an export for British products to Europe. “This test has not been so successful yet that we can continue with it,” says Emiel Brouckaert, Director of Rederscentrale. “We will now evaluate the test to arrive at a final text. We also need to talk to administrations and politicians. In fact, they still largely have to figure out how things should go.”