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Issue 2 2019 - FBJ

Forwarder’s customers take stock

Many customers of freight forwarder a.Hartrodt have been taking pre-Brexit precautions, says Gerald Kiernan, national sales manager at the Dublin office. Some are in a position to increase their stocks in Ireland, bringing forward not

from the

UK but those from further afield, in anticipation of possible problems at major container hubs or ro ro ports. Others - those who import perishable goods or bulky items that cannot be stockpiled economically - will have to work round any issues as best they can. “But I think businesses here

are very well aware of the situation; there are no heads- in-the-sand here,” Kiernan states. He also has faith in the

ability of the Irish Customs Department to manage the situation, though he admits that the sheer volume of extra entries might be an issue. “Doing entries from the UK would be fine, it’s just the sheer volume.” At the moment,

the AEP (Automated Entry Processing) system handles around 1.4 million entries a year, but says it has stress- tested its systems up to 40m entries; the best estimate of the number of entries following a Hard Brexit is around 20m. As far as anyone can tell, the system would cope from a capacity point of view with an upsurge in entries though the customs service would lack sufficient people to scrutinise them properly. There are also serious question marks over whether there would be sufficient personnel to supervise Port Health. A.Hartrodt itself could

comfortably handle the demand for extra entries from its existing customers, though if any new ones emerged they might well have to be disappointed. Kiernan points out: “Most of our offices are mainly into deep-sea cargoes, so in a way, nothing changes very much.” The company has trained up an extra staff member in customs and, if need be, people

could be brought in from its many overseas offices. Some Irish companies might,

in the event of Brexit, be able to handle their own customs clearances. There is no requirement for port-specific

it – neither of them something to be undertaken lightly. Meanwhile, it is business as

usual for Hartrodt says Kiernan – in fact, things have been pretty good in the past year. “The Irish economy has been


along with LCL mainly from the EU. The food and drinks industry is a major customer. There are though some

operational issues, including the driver shortage, particularly for hazardous (ADR) goods, and congestion at major container hubs like Rotterdam or

Felixstowe. As in most

parts of the world, container shipping has become a more fraught business with frequent rollovers of cargo, cancelled sailings and missed calls. Many

begin or end with a feeder service to or

from the main

Continental or UK ports and there are pressures on these too. Quite often, a late running feeder vessel due to call in four terminals will cut out one or more calls, which can lead to further delays. “Trying to explain to a customer that their cargo has been stuck in Rotterdam for ten days can be difficult,” Kiernan explains. That said, there have been

some improved and additional services to Ireland such as CLdN’s, though there would probably be scope for more, he suggests. The other big challenge in

Ireland is getting hold of reefer boxes and other specialist containers such as flat racks. Reefers are used for many of the forwarder’s traffics, in some cases to protect the contents from extreme cold rather than heat in places such as Canada. The Irish pharma producers tend to snap up what reefer boxes

are available out of

Congestion in hubs like Rotterdam is having knock - on effects in Ireland

‘badges’ as in the UK, nor any need to get specific approval from customs to do entries, although firms would need to invest in specialised software and train people in how to use

trading well, although it is of course susceptible to shocks,” he says. A.Hartrodt offers mainly full

load services between Ireland and its major trading partners,

DSV – ready for anything

At the time of writing, in late February, it was still impossible to predict what Brexit would bring for traders on the island of Ireland but that is no excuse for not being as fully prepared

as possible for all eventualities, says Robert Greene, managing director of one of the biggest freight operators, DSV Road. “We have been trying to communicate with all our

customers,” he explains. “We need them to be prepared and have asked them to ensure that they have all the necessary, accurate information and that, for instance, they have the EORI number of anyone they deal with, that goods are classified accurately and, where applicable, a deferred VAT account in place.” There is even a ‘microsite’ to help customers get ready for 29 March. Whereas any problems with

goods tended to get sorted out by the transport operator now, under the new post-Brexit regime, any issues are liable to land back in the shipper or consignee’s lap. While firms that regularly trade outside the EU will be familiar with the drill, other customers unused to dealing with Customs will not necessarily realise the importance of accuracy

and data quality. It will also be important to ensure that any packaging used is to internationally recognised standards. DSV also has some

interesting new technology that could ease the burden of customs compliance. It is developing ‘robots’ that are capable of extracting the necessary information from commercial invoices, inputting them into the transport management system (TMS) from which it can in turn be used to create customs declarations. Invoices and other documents do have to be ‘mapped’, but Greene says that the system could be made pretty reliable. This is in fact a commercially-

available system that could be adopted by other freight operators although they would need to have deep

shippers have factored in these delays into their supply chains, says Kiernan. What makes the situation

doubly difficult in Ireland is that all deep-sea movements

enough pockets to develop it; it’s not something that can be expected to work ‘out of the box’. DSV itself has a robotics centre of excellence in Poland, along with highly experienced technicians in Belfast and Immingham. The transport and freight

industry of course has historically been reluctant to invest heavily in new technology but the cost “can be very manageable if you do it correctly and have good

technicians who also

understand the business,” in Greene’s opinion. “We were lucky in that we had good operators who were also technically-minded, who understood all the ‘hidden rules’ that forwarders have built up over time. I’ve always heard that this industry is slow to adopt technology but that isn’t necessarily the case.” However: “We will only

release the system when it’s 100% successful and accurate and it will go through user

Ireland. Flat racks are also rare, and

sometimes it is necessary to pay extra to move them from one Irish port to another, which can be expensive. Trucking is generally the only option for such inter-port moves; there are no barge or rail services these days.

acceptance testing.” Most customers do in fact use a recognised order management system such as SAP, so providing documents in the necessary format shouldn’t be an issue. Other, smaller customers would probably be directed to the MyDSV portal which in itself would ensure that everything is properly formatted. The company has also held

discussions with its customs software provider, Thyme-IT, on whether a combined export/ import declaration might be possible for AEOs, which would be operated in conjunction with geofencing that would notify when the goods had left and arrived. It is also involved in a project to use RFID (radio- frequency identification tags) on the goods of one customer; the system could be used to instantly collate information and send it to Customs. Greene adds: “There have

also been dis cussi o ns

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