FBJ 4 FREIGHT BUSINESS JOURNAL
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Issue 6 2014 - Freight Business Journal From the Editor
Newspapermen used to call the summer months the Silly Season. With parliament in recess and business people taking their annual holidays, there was a distinct lack of ‘hard’ news stories, so all sorts of weird and wonderful tales got an airing on the front pages of the national press. But no longer, it seems. Along with the ongoing civil wars in Syria and Ukraine, the West is growing increasingly alarmed at the Islamic State’s conquest of a large slice of Iraq. Closer to home, alarm bells are ringing in Westminster – rather belatedly, it has to be said – because it seems as if the Scots might actually vote to break away from the rest of the UK. And even the return from a Continental holiday has become a fraught process, with reports of immigrants trying to storm ferries leaving the port of Calais. All matters that are anything but trivial, not least for those whose livelihood depends on international trade.
By Chris Lewis
On the subject of Scottish independence, by the time this appears in print we will be about to know whether the folk north of the border will have taken the audacious step of breaking away from the United Kingdom. The vote may not be decisive, of course, but at the time of writing the opinion polls had the ‘Yes’ camp close enough to the ‘No’s to serious worry the Westminster politicians. No doubt somewhat disingenuously, unionist-minded politicians have raised the spectre of armed border guards and all the trappings of the former Iron Curtain at Gretna Green. We rather doubt that it will come to that, but the prospect of Scottish independence does raise a lot of unanswered questions. Quite apart from the currency issue, would an independent Scotland automatically be part of the European Union or would it have to join the queue of other aspirant members? Even it is part of the EU, it would cause complications with cross-border Excise goods in particular, as the UK Warehousing Association points out. The Single European market has though put an end to queues of trucks at EU internal borders. You don’t have to be a very old freight industry veteran to remember the amount of time it took to negotiate the Northern Ireland- Eire frontier before the Single European Market. And even where the border is between EU and non-EU states, customs clearance can be made to operate quite smoothly and painlessly, as indeed it does with Norway and Switzerland, with computerised pre-clearance and speedy release of goods without having to wait for bundles of paper to be processed. In the event of Scotland going it alone, one would hope and expect that pragmatism would prevail and that measures would be put in place to make cross-border trade as simple as possible. But when politics is involved, you never know.
As many people expected, the Government’s Airports Commission has kyboshed London Mayor Boris Johnson’s grand design for a new London airport in the Thames estuary. While some would argue - and the Mayor certainly did - that London needs ambition and visionary thinking if it is to remain competitive against Schiphol or Charles de Gaulle, the commission concluded that the ‘Boris Island’ scheme was too expensive and carried too many risks. The Capital’s freight industry will also, mostly, breathe a sigh of relief that this large and widely scattered industry will not be required to up sticks and somehow find space 70 miles to the east of the city. Arguably, moving the airfreight industry – along with all the other airline industry support services such as catering or fuel supplies - to a new greenfield site might be better for the health of the industry in the long term, but most people wouldn’t relish the difficulty and upheaval it would cause in the short term. Have we heard the last of Boris Island or similar schemes? Boris has wider political ambitions than being Mayor of London. He has already announced plans to re-enter parliament, and he has been tipped as a future leader of the Conservative Party and, maybe, Prime Minister. Boris Island may have disappared into the Thames mist for the moment – but don’t bank against it resurfacing at some time in the future – especially if, as the Mayor predicts, attempts to expand runways at Heathrow and Gatwick run into serious trouble.
What has the port industry ever done for us? Well quite a lot, if you believe the reports that ABP has recently been publishing on the beneficial effects of its activities on local economies. In the case of Southampton, actually a huge amount, according to the independent report by consultants Arup, which
FBJ is the only UK and one of the few pan-European Multimodal newspapers. The comments we have received prove there is still room for a hard copy publication with the freighting industry. You don’t have to look at a screen all day!
FBJ boasts the most informative and authoritative source of information with unrivalled in-depth knowledge of the rapidly changing freight business environment.
As the definitive publication within the sea, air, road and rail freight sectors, each issue includes regular news and analysis, in-depth coverage discovering the business decisions behind the news stories, shipper and exporter reports, opinion, geographical features, political and environmental issues.
If you have any stories or letters which should be of interest or any feedback on FBJ, please contact our editor Chris Lewis - +44 (0)208 6450666 firstname.lastname@example.org
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puts Southampton’s contribution to the UK economy at not far off a billion a year, including £714 million for the immediate area and supporting 14,730 jobs. On Humberside, the three ports on the Humber of Hull, Grimsby and Immingham between them support 23,000 jobs in the area and contribute £1.5 billion to the regional economy and even ABP’s small Scottish operations bring in £40 million the the economy and have a vital role in supporting the whisky industry. Not to be outdone, Peel Ports Group says that its new Liverpool2 container terminal will boost employment on Merseyside by around 5,000 jobs. Similar stories could no doubt be repeated at ports up and down the country – and even at inland locations like Birmingham where rail terminals and continerbases are a lynchpin of the local economy.
The congestion-busting measures announced by the Port of Rotterdam in early August suggest that handling new-generation post-Panamax container ships may not be entirely straightforward. The port blamed arrivals of large intercontinental container ships outside scheduled times, adding that other ports faced similar problems. Maybe these are just teething issues and that things will settle down again. But if Europe’s largest port is struggling, one can imagine that the problems could be even worse elsewhere. There are downsides to the shipping industry’s ‘biggest is best’ approach.
Most trade associations complain that merger activity have eroded their membership base as their industries become dominated by fewer, but larger companies. It’s true of road haulage, car dealerships, pubs and, for all we know, even cake shops. But not freight forwarding it seems. Yes, there have been a lot of mergers and there will continue to be many more in future, along with companies going out of business altogether. But the propensity for people to join an established freight forwarder, learnb the ropes and then start up in business on their own is as great as ever, at least accoprding to BIFA’s membership statistics. It is one of the few trade associations in the transport and logistics arena that has substantially increased its memberships over the past few years. Very annoying if the bright young spark you’ve trained up for the past couple of years has upped sticks, taking a couple of your best customers with him or her, but it does make for a lively and dynamic industry.
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