Issue 3 2021 - Freight Business Journal


Since January this year, every EU market has been disrupted as a result of the UK’s departure from the EU, with Italy being no exception, writes Phil Denton, managing director of Manchester- based Ital Logistics. With the added layers of regulations, about many of which exporters and importers were initially relatively uninformed (many still

are), it

was inevitable that there would be delays, and even service failures. And it hasn’t just been

UK companies who were lacking in knowledge, as many of their customers and suppliers in the EU were similarly fumbling in the dark. Many still are, and no doubt this will continue for most of this year. The last-minute free trade

agreement leſt little time to address these issues. While some would say ‘we knew it was coming’, in truth many were under the misguided assumption that a free trade deal would solve everything. Naïve

It’s all in the preparation for Quality Freight

Before Brexit, shipping and freight forwarders, Quality Freight (QF), part of the Peel Ports Group, encouraged importers and exporters to prepare robust customs clearance procedures ahead of 1 January to avoid unwanted delays. QF took

steps to improve

resilience pre-Brexit, including increased throughput capacity for HGV trailers, containers and storage

to support smooth operations for its customers. Since Brexit, QF has seen a huge

spike in customs work - not only clearances, but work required for HMRC on declarations. QF increased its expertise and

invested in hardware to ensure that delays were kept to a minimum and to offer additional support to clients that were in the dark on certain changes.

perhaps, but with all the previous failed Brexit deadlines, who could blame them? The situation has been further compounded because even HMRC wasn’t ready, neither trained to assist properly, nor even fully versed in the regulations themselves. Throughout January and into

most of February, updates kept coming through from HMRC, with so much to read and implement whilst simultaneously trying to maintain some level of service

to customers and pacify hauliers who were delayed for many days whilst issues were being resolved. Demurrage costs, return crossings, foreign storage charges, unloading in foreign depots and additional delivery costs – all adding to customers’ and forwarders’ woes. Continuing in this somewhat

depressing vein, the fact that computer systems like NCTS appear to be crumbling under the strain, and the seemingly inadequate training for Inland

Border Facility employees, most certainly doesn’t help. Whilst Ital Logistics has

managed to continue all its services, albeit in the first few weeks slightly reduced, many other companies suspended services with the EU. I’m not saying that we didn’t encounter difficulties, for certainly we did, and still are. And we’ve also made some errors. But despite this, our customers and suppliers continue to work closely with us to keep

Esprit shows spirit as it battles Covid and Brexit

Brexit and Covid have created frustration in equal measure for Manchester-based logistics and transport company Esprit Group but the company continues to battle on, says managing director Graham Dixon. Aſter a great deal of work

over several months, not only by Esprit but also by a customer and Peel Ports, which owns and operates the Manchester Ship Canal adjacent to one of Esprit’s premises, some regular bulk freight business was won late in 2020. Peel Ports also spent a vast amount of money dredging the upper reaches of the canal to facilitate the new business. The 3,500-tonne shipments

were to come up the ship canal every six weeks from France and be unloaded at the Esprit Trafford Docks site into its dockside bulk storage warehouse for gradual delivery to a local factory. Dixon recalls: “We did the first

load in November 2020 but then the Brexit uncertainty meant the supplier had to assume a ‘No Deal’ would be the inevitable outcome and had to make alternative contingency plans, avoiding the UK to prevent tariffs. So the Brexit deal came far too late to prevent this. However, we’re hopeful shipments may resume later this year.” Covid has also had an impact, Dixon continues: “In Spring 2020

we were negotiating two large warehousing contracts for some space we had coming available in May 2020. Covid meant the discussions

stopped, demand and as the

customer was unsure what their product


storage requirement would be. This meant we had significant empty space in our warehouses for many months, thus running at a loss. The only government support we were eligible for were loans or delayed VAT terms, all of which still have to be paid back, so Covid has severely financially impacted our business.”

the wheels turning and business seems to be on the up. In fact, we are finding that many

customers that we lost on price previously have come back to us, as well as many fresh enquiries daily, resulting in new business. So while it is hard going, it is proving fruitful. As a result of this, since the start of the year, we have employed six new people across our export and import department, an increase of 21%. A positive sign in negative times.

Looking on the bright side, in

2021: “Demand is currently strong for warehousing space so we’re hopeful this will continue and help us recover. However I have real concerns that once the likely post-Covid spending surge tails off and the inevitable austerity measures are put in place, which may include increases in business taxes, we could face a prolonged period of hardship. Couple that with several large retailers recently ceasing trading, which releases large warehousing spaces onto the market, the outlook is concerning. Business rates, taxes and the repayment terms of the Covid loans all need to be reviewed to ensure businesses who have survived the pandemic don’t then fail due to lack of demand and increases in fixed costs.”

Harbour International bucks the trend

Your supermarket logistics “Supply Chain Partner”

Manchester-based Harbour International Freight has seen an increase in freight volumes to Ireland of around 50% against 2020, despite the well documented drop in the export market – “a great start to another uncertain year”, says UK general manager, Steve Swinburn. He adds: “Our UK business -

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we are a shareholder member of Pall-Ex - has increased by 25% against this time last year. We are starting to see businesses restock ready for the lockdown easing which is causing some issues due to the inconsistency in volumes day by day.” So far this year Harbour

International is signing up an average of one new customer every day across its

different services - UK domestic or Irish Sea. Swinburn says the explanation

is “our hands on approach to giving honest, realistic


advice and solutions to Brexit– feedback from new customers is overwhelmingly positive and is helping our improve and strengthen our business.” Exports to the EU mainland

are still slower than he would like but this will be an area for growth and increased attention in the coming months, and all in all it has been a positive first quarter. Meanwhile, the company is

pressing on with plans for its new UK head office in Manchester, which will allow an expansion of its own vehicle fleet coverage from Lancashire, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire to a much wider area to support Irish and European groupage operations and Pall-Ex services. The company recruited five

new members of staff in 2021 who are focused on the new requirements following the UK’s exit from the

build up its European services.

EU and to help

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