PoR: “Brits are more moderate preparing than we already thought”
Right after the holidays, the chaos of Brexit didn’t materialize at the start of this month, but how does the Rotterdam Port Authority look back in the past weeks, now that Brexit is part of the daily routine? Mark Dick, a Brexit expert at the Rotterdam Port Authority, gives an update.
Natalie Van Herck
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How was the first period after Brexit?
On average, 50% less cargo is transported from Rotterdam to the UK, via all terminals. This is likely due to fear of Brexit transport and logistics companies. Overall, it went smoothly, but there were also truck drivers who were unprepared, so they didn’t arrange to pre-register via Portbase. In such event, these drivers must be escorted to the Brexit emergency car park. Customs documents can then be arranged there. The driver is officially given 24 hours for this, but in practice this takes between 1.5 and 2 hours, so that the same ferry can be reached. Traffic, organized by the Rijkswaterstaat, was also organized according to plan. For example, we did not encounter any problems with traffic congestion. Parking occupancy rates ranged from 10-20% of capacity. On top of that, the Shortsey performs well, but there are no massive sizes yet. Every now and then, there are problems with shipping companies that don’t get everything ready, but it can be managed. The export process is good. The biggest problems come from the UK.
How does the import process go next?
With the British, the ports immediately became so full that the trucks had to be diverted. Preparation in the UK is milder than we expected. For our part, we already had most of the parking spaces ready on the Brexit date, March 29, 2019. The Brits still have to get the money to realize parking spaces last October. In the UK, the notion prevailed that the deal allowed for normal trade to continue. As a result, they were less prepared for formality. This can be seen, for example, in documents, but also in the transportation of live animals. This became a problem. These trailers cannot leave the station and take up a lot of space. UK schedules need to make rapid progress to improve the situation.
How many trucks are sent to temporary Brexit emergency parking spaces?
About thirty a day. At the ferry terminal in Vlaardingen, where space was made available for emergency parking for Brexit, there was one or two additional crowds, meaning that Option B, the temporary parking spot on Waterleidingstraat in Vlaardingen, had to be converted.
Were there any other details? What stood out?
Sometimes the transport sector appears to no longer want to take back goods from the UK. This also applies to empty containers, because you also have to comply with some formalities. For example, it may happen that fewer containers return to Rotterdam. Additionally, there are very few customs officers in the UK. As in the parking lot, the British were very late in their preparations with regard to customs officers. We started on February 1, 2018, in the UK just last year, when they need about 5,000 more men.
At the start of the year, the ferry departures were far from full. how are you now?
The occupancy rate is generally 50% lower than it was before Brexit. It’s not crowded on the weekends, but Tuesdays, Wednesdays, and Thursdays are really busy days, then they get a little more full. You can see an upward trend in ferry trading and we expect it to get busier in the coming weeks. Then we also see if the preparations are enough.
How well does a customs declaration work via Portbase?
For the most part, it works well, but it definitely doesn’t go very smoothly. Most of the problems are details about customs declarations, for example two letters are wrong. Importing livestock commodities remains difficult. This is being attempted to improve through better information sharing.
What will the coming months look like?
It’s hard to predict. We are not raising the flag yet. It remains to be seen if this system will also work at larger volumes. Volume is expected to increase this week. Expect some traffic jams in the parking lots. It will also determine how the import process with the UK is resolved. I don’t expect it to be resolved straight away in the coming months. We’ll be halting emergency Brexit parking spaces in four weeks, so everything should go well. We will evaluate what could be improved at the end of February.