With final trade discussions about the UK-EU deal in progress and only 163 days (at time of writing) until the end of the transition period, now is a good time to start getting prepared for all eventualities. New, formal customs clearance requirements are coming, so let's look at what challenges lie ahead and how to overcome them.
Whatever the outcome of the deal discussions, we know that on the 1st January 2021, import, export and security declarations will be required to move goods between the UK and the EU. Although pre-lodgement will be available (and probably a requirement), this currently means customs declarations for around 4.6 million truck movements each year.
A mass recruitment drive has already begun for qualified customs experts to support the increase in volume at the end of the transition period. Numbers indicate an increase from 55 million customs clearances to 255 million, which equates to an extra 50,000 agents needed for manual processing.
Prior to 1992 and the Single European Market, it was mandatory for all products and goods entering or leaving the UK to have a completed customs entry. In Dover alone there were more than 120 customs clearance agents. There were no automated technologies in place. The process was manual and incredibly time-consuming. Today, there are less than 30 companies in Dover able to process customs declarations and shipping volumes have risen dramatically.
As an anonymous freight clearance operator has said
"Just doing the paperwork could be a nightmare."
Also, as customs clearance between the UK and the EU hasn't been required for nearly 30 years, there has been very little technological advancement within the sector. For the average haulier or logistics business, it is still mainly a paper-based, wet stamp system.
Vehicles currently travelling by Roll-on/Roll-off (Ro-Ro) ferry rely upon clearance at the port when going to non-EU countries. The ports and ferry operators have already said current customs procedures will not suit Ro-Ro traffic between the UK and EU due to the volume of vehicles crossing. At least 10,000 vehicles cross into Europe from Dover alone each day!
There are around 130 customs clearance agents in the whole of the UK and demand for customs clearances is expected to rise by 200 million. Increasing 'data entry' worker levels at the ports by 500% is not feasible, so there needs to be an alternative solution.
Companies trading solely with the EU will have little or no knowledge about customs as it has not been required until now and there is a lot of subject specific jargon. Stringent HMRC codes of practice and important information also need to be understood. With a Hard Brexit still a possibility, it is vital that these businesses have a plan in place to keep trade moving smoothly.
Freightlink are aware of the changes that are coming and unfortunately, there's no hiding from them. They WILL change the way your business has to function BUT, this new way of working doesn't have to be a major headache. For the last two years, our friends at CustomsLink have been working on a digital solution to tackle these new requirements for importers, exporters, brokers and hauliers head on. With their team of industry experts, they know what needs doing and how it can be done.
CustomsLink is here to help you take control and manage your customs declarations by making the process easier and clearer than ever before. CustomsLink have simplified the entire process by cutting through the jargon, allowing members of your supply chain to contribute information and by breaking everything down into smaller data entry sections in our online digital platform.
CustomsLink complies with all the HMRC codes of practice and can track data and keep a date-stamped recorded audit trail so you can see who has added information to your declaration and when.
Visit the CustomsLink website to find out how they can help you with your entire customs process and speak to one of their customs experts.