Full customs controls at EU borders cause chaos for UK logistics

Full customs controls at EU borders cause chaos for UK logistics

Natalie Wainwright, Group Operations Director at Diamond Logistics, discusses the challenges logistics operations are facing following custom control changes which took effect on the 1st of January.

“Brexit continues to be an enormous deterrent of trade to the UK thanks to problems at custom control. Our international trade is down 70%. This was primarily shipments from the European Union (EU). Small businesses – like the many e-commerce retailers we are partner to – are being hit particularly hard.

Full customs controls between the EU and Great Britain (except Ireland) came into effect 1st of January 2022. The customs arrangements in place for 2021 for goods moving from Ireland and Northern Ireland (NI) to GB have been extended for as long as discussions between the UK and EU on the Northern Ireland Protocol (NIP) are ongoing.

New controls in place from 1st Jan 2022 include:

  • Full customs import declarations for all goods at the time the courier or freight forwarder brings them into Great Britain except if they are non-controlled goods imported from Ireland to GB
  • Customs controls at all ports and board locations
  • Goods may be directed to Inland Border Facilities for documentary or physical checks if these cannot be done at the border
  • There is now a requirement for a supplier’s declaration proving the origin of the goods (either EU or UK) if zero tariffs are being used that were agreed in the UK’s trade deal with the EU
  • Commodity codes changed again – the codes used to classify the goods for customs declarations.

Commodity code changes at EU borders

Businesses get used to knowing what the commodity codes are for their products. If they don’t know there has been code changes, they don’t amend them, so goods are held up in customs or returned due to ‘errors’. Clients with special customs requirements are struggling the most. The notifications and training for SMEs on these changes are poor and often fairly last minute.

We are continuously developing our bespoke technology system Despatchlab to match changes as required. This is not compensated enough by government Brexit transition ‘support.’ Thankfully our clients outsource their logistics to us and are able to lean on our IT.

If products aren’t caught in customs, they’re delayed. Services we expect to take 3-5 days are taking more than double this time on occasion and we are unable to follow up with anyone. “Held at customs” is what we’re told. We are advised on occasion a (new) certification is missing and the goods are returned to sender.

This is particularly problematic when the products we are shipping are perishable like seeds. These spoil and cannot be used, this then creates a shortage of crop for the public to purchase and is a significant financial loss for our clients.

Individual countries are also changing what they do and do not accept, and no one seems to know where this information is being held. It certainly isn’t being communicated to us, our clients or carrier partners. When we contact customs directly, they are not  able to provide us with the information we need. It’s impossible for operators to plan without the full picture.

Store goods in the UK

Businesses in the European Union must consider investing in UK storage and fulfilment to store goods closer to UK customers and avoid custom control hell. Stocking locally in micro-fulfilment centres provides a real answer to businesses in the European Union.”

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