FBJ 4 FREIGHT BUSINESS JOURNAL
JOHN SAUNDERS - PUBLISHER Tel: +44 (0)151 427 6800 Fax: +44 (0)151 427 1796 Mobile: +44 (0)7932 102026 john.sa
RAY GIRVAN Tel: +44 (0)1691 718 045
CHRIS LEWIS - EDITOR +44 (0)7778 106433
m MIKE BRYANT PHIL HASTINGS
Tel: +44 (0)151 427 6800 circulation@f j-online.co
By Chris Lewis
What I had hoped to write in this issue of FBJ – which went to press a couple of days after Parliament held its ‘meaningful vote’ on Theresa May’s withdrawal plans - was something along the lines of: “We may not like Brexit, but at least we now know where we’re heading.” That wasn’t to be, unfortunately. The industry remains on tenterhooks as, first of all, the government waits to see whether EU member states will in fact grant an extension to the Brexit deadline. At the same time, our MPs were due to vote on a third version of May’s withdrawal plan. The pundits suggested that it was touch and go whether it would be a case of third time lucky. Perhaps, by the time you read this, the agony of waiting will all be over. But then, maybe not…
The haste with which the government agreed to pay £33m to Eurotunnel to settle a lawsuit over the way in which post-Brexit ferry services were awarded smacks of near-panic in Government circles. It has hardly a reassuring indication that it has things safely under control. No doubt it will come as sweet revenge for Eurotunnel boss Jacques Gournon, who a couple of years back saw his dreams of setting up a water-borne ferry service to complement the Tunnel quashed by the UK competition authorities. In any other times, the episode would put the career of transport secretary Chris Grayling in serious doubt, but these are clearly not normal times. The Government understandably does not want the turmoil of a change of personnel at such a critical moment. There will be plenty of time to settle scores after the end of March – assuming the current administration remains in power.
LORRAINE CHRISTIAN Tel: +44 (0)151 427 6800 lorraine.ch
ANDREA CAZZOLATO Tel: +44 (0)151 427 6800 andrea@f j-online.co
Much has been said about the so-called Northern Ireland backstop in the Brexit debate over the last few months or even years. Generally, it is portrayed as an unmitigated disaster, with politicians and officials quick to point out that it would only be invoked as a last resort, to stave off some as yet nameless calamity that might otherwise befall the island of Ireland after Great Britain stumps in high dudgeon out of the EU. But would a ‘Backstop Ulster’ necessarily be in such a bad position, from a trading, if not a cultural or political point of view? Being able to trade freely with both the mainland UK and the EU could be the making of the province, turning it into an entrepot in the Irish Sea. While there would be a customs border in the Irish Sea between Northern Ireland and the rest of the UK, this would be far easier to manage than on the land crossing with Ireland and would occur at a natural break-point in the freight journey across the Irish Sea. (And it should also be pointed out that there are already some health checks on agri goods and animals moving between GB and Northern Ireland.) Sounds a great idea. Now all we have to do is go to Belfast to sell the concept to a few shaven-headed gentlemen with Union Jacks tattooed on their foreheads.
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One factor that hasn’t much been taken into account in the UK’s Brexit planning – such as it is – is the French capacity for freelance action. Customs officers unions staged a dress-rehearsal for Brexit day in early March when they mounted a work-to-rule, insisting on checking every truck heading for the Channel ports and Tunnel. Chaos quickly ensued, with vehicles having to be diverted to holding areas and truck bans imposed on motorways leading to the coast. In this case, the issue was quickly resolved and it is some comfort to know that the holding areas at Calais port worked reasonably well when they were put to the test. UK officials were quick to point out that the plans for simplified declarations for traffic in the UK mean that a similar situation could never happen here, but that will be of little comfort to firms that have had their deliveries snarled up on the other side of the Channel. The potential to impose extra checks on UK-bound goods is yet another weapon in the already formidable armoury of French organised labour.
Issue 2 2019 - Freight Business Journal From the Editor
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 within 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 defi nitive 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 chris.lewis@f j-online.co
next issue >> Pharma & Italy.
circulation >> Our next issue will include features on: North West England,
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Old age has a habit of creeping up on us unawares and it’s the same for the freight industry. Almost without noticing it, we’ve become an industry of greybeards. (And we say greybeards advisedly; there are precious few women in the business too.) BIFA’s efforts to attract fresh talent, and to make it more part of the freight community, are to be applauded. The Young Forwarders Network, whose Heathrow division held its launch event on 6 March is a radical attempt to break the mould and make freight more attractive to school-leavers. The YFN will also help raise awareness of what has been until now a pretty low-key business, holding events that will be both educative and, one hopes, enjoyable too. It could help break down any feelings of isolation that youngsters working in their first job may feel – and also, perhaps, make them feel part of the bigger picture, teaching them about other modes of transport, or what actually goes on in the big port or airport a few miles in the road. But the fundamental problem the freight industry faces is not so much keeping talent, as attracting it in the first place. As one employer told a round table at the YFN launch, once apprentices join the business, they tend to stay in it. BIFA’s Carl Hobbis says that the freight forwarding’s problem is making the voice of a relatively small industry heard above the clamour of competing businesses in schools and colleges that are highly geared towards pushing people into universities.
Come on in, the water’s lovely as the old seaside holiday cliché has it. The same could perhaps be said of logistics in the UK these days. As the developer of the new Thames Enterprise Park points out, there has been a fundamental shift in the location of distribution property in the UK, away from the crowded and expensive Midlands towards the country’s ports and coasts. Until recently, much logistics planning was still stuck in a 1980s mindset, when the then all-powerful retailers dictated that such developments should be in the centre of the country, within a four-hour truck drive of their stores. To some extent, the logistics industry has wrested back control, and the result is a much more mixed picture, with sites near ports complementing those in the traditional Golden Triangle. The problem now, though, is that space near many of the country’s major ports is in short supply, especially in London and the south-east. Plus ca change…
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