Wednesday, August 22, 2018

RoRo Ports Like Dover Not Fit for Purpose for Foodstuffs Post Brexit says UK Warehousing Chief

Government Must Change Customs Clearance to Inland Depots to Avoid Catastrophe
Shipping News Feature
UK – 18 months ago the United Kingdom Warehousing Association (UKWA) produced a report on the problems facing the future supply of food to the Capital, however on last night's BBC's Ten O'Clock News programme CEO Peter Ward illustrated that the problems now facing that vital sector of the supply chain were being threatened by the Brexit crisis, and crisis it will be if solutions such as those offered by the UKWA boss are not heeded by the government.

Peter Ward has mooted that legislation be introduced to allow foodstuffs entering the country to be inspected at inland premises, as opposed to ports, to ease the flow of goods into post-Brexit Britain. Allowing food inspections to be carried out at inland storage facilities would, UKWA contend, allow existing storage premises to be adapted to accommodate inspection regimes and deliver the necessary extra capacity more quickly. Speaking on the programme, Peter Ward said:

“Currently food inspections must be conducted within the port boundary, but after Brexit this will be impractical. For example, 44% of what the nation eats enters the UK at Dover from the EU. This is the equivalent of 1,000 trucks per day through the port on ferries and the tunnel. Inspecting this food in a manner consistent with Rest Of World (ROW) rules from March 2019 is going to present a major challenge.

“For instance, the port of Dover doesn’t have the necessary plug-in points to power temperature-controlled vehicles, which means the only way to ensure that food remains cool while awaiting inspection will be to keep diesel engines running, which will add cost and impact on the environment.

“The lack of adequate inspection facilities at RoRo ports, such as Dover, will result in unprecedented delays and after Brexit there will simply not be sufficient capacity nor the infrastructure to cope, so an interruption in food supply chains seems inevitable.”

Ever the realist Peter Ward foresees that the situation must be delicately managed and acknowledges, given the huge volumes involved, any new inland food inspection facilities would have to be located close to both power supply and a sustainable labour pool, which in turn will trigger other concerns.

“The question is how resistance of local residents to large warehousing and distribution developments will be balanced against the need to ensure the nation continues to be fed,” he said.

At the UKWA Conference earlier this year Ward used the oft quoted MI5 maxim ‘a society is only ever four meals away from anarchy’ a thought that echoes down the years and has relevance in the situation Britain may find herself in. To try to mitigate the situation both the UKWA and other industry notables and associations are in consultation with government and giving feedback both to their members, and to the wider freight community.

In the meantime, UKWA is advising its members to prepare for a no-deal Brexit and the 300,000 businesses that currently trade with the EU only to classify goods per UCC (Unified Customs Code), apply for deferment accounts and find partners and/or trade associations that can help them prepare for the potentially difficult times ahead. Peter Ward concluded:

“UKWA is here to help the Government to understand the perspective of the industry on the real impact Brexit is likely to have, particularly on food supply chains. By supplying the necessary detail we hope that we will contribute to the formulation of a coherent and effective policy.”

Photo: Peter Ward faces the BBC cameras.