JOHN SAUNDERS - PUBLISHER Tel: +44 (0)151 427 6800 Fax: +44 (0)151 427 1796 Mobile: +44 (0)7932 102026 john.saunders@f

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Tel: +44 (0)151 427 6800 circulation@f

By Chris Lewis

The sight of a single, small excavator digging away at a muddy bank trying to free the 20,000teu Ever Given does bring into question the level of preparedness for such an incident. Ships go aground all the time, and in all sorts of places and circumstances, but this was the fi rst time that a 20,000teu mega container ship had ended up completely blocking a critical global marine pinch point. It is one of the unintended consequences of the surge in surge in ship sizes; similar incidents in the past have involved smaller ships that didn’t have the potential to bring everything to a halt. Perhaps the Suez Canal authorities, and those of the Panama Canal and other potential trouble spots, should consider keeping beefi er resources on hand to drag errant ships out of the way and prevent global trade from grinding to a halt? Aſt er all, even Highways England has breakdown trucks on hand to drag broken down vehicles out of roadworks. Part of the problem is that Egypt is not a hugely wealthy country and has many other pressing concerns. While the temporary loss of canal revenue as ships stop moving or divert to the Cape route might convince it that it would be a wise investment, perhaps the world’s shipping lines could stump up the cash for resources? Aſt er all, but pushing containership sizes to their limits, they have in large part created the problem. Perhaps the shipping lines could invest a small proportion of their recent huge profi ts in such a scheme?


LORRAINE CHRISTIAN Tel: +44 (0)151 427 6800 lorraine.christian@f

ANDREA CAZZOLATO Tel: +44 (0)151 427 6800 andrea@f

‘Without shipping, life would be diff erent. We would have limited access to a lot of the food we consume, pharmaceuticals, clothes and consumer goods, as around 90% of world trade is transported by ship. Around 1.7 million seafarers make it possible every day. Because of them, and the over 61,000 ships we are served by, we do not run out of what we need…’ Thus intones the fi rst few lines of a well-produced Youtube video by BIMCO, the international shipowners’ club. It’s laudable, especially during this Suez Crisis II, when ships are probably seen by the general public as an impediment to rather than an enabler of global trade, but as someone recently asked on the LinkedIn group, Where’s the f in fr8, ‘Who’s listening?’ The shipping industry could of course pour a few tens of thousands of dollars into some sort of shipping promotion eff ort – indeed, it has made similar eff orts in the past – but the problem is more mindset than money. This is an industry that is notoriously publicity-shy; it has, so to speak, a bunker mentality. Even well-respected customer groups seem to have trouble fathoming what is on the liner operators’ minds. Getting any meaningful industry comment about how ports and lines intend to deal with the current congestion issues – which date back to the start of the Covid lockdowns, not the Ever Given incident – has proved well-nigh impossible.



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The Government’s decision to extend the period in which importers will be allowed to use the deferred declaration scheme, including submitting supplementary declarations up to six months aſt er the goods have been imported, to 1 January next year illustrates how, in attempting to solve one problem, others can inadvertently be created. While it might arguably reduce some of the burden on business, as BIFA boss, Robert Keen, says, the snag with delayed declarations is that they invite non-compliance by those who are so inclined. Extending the option to use the deferred declaration scheme, including submitting supplementary declarations up to six months aſt er the goods have been imported, just adds to the risk of fraud. However, there appears to be widespread support for the delay to introduction of Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) checks on food and agri imports by six months, which will give businesses more time to prepare.

The spate of one-off chartered ships to bring containers from China to Europe, fi rst noted in our previous issue, continues apace. Liverpool should, canal blockages permitting, soon welcome the fi rst such vessels direct to a UK port, and there may be others to follow. These vessels are also the fi rst container-carrying ships to operate direct from the Far East into the North-west’s leading maritime gateway for some considerable time. Time will tell whether these one-off operations will eventually gel into more regular services in time. But they are meanwhile an excellent shop window for what the

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Northern ports can achieve, given the opportunity.

Aſt er a few years in which the established operators – P&O Ferries, DFDS and of course, the Tunnel - have been undisturbed by upstart operators, news that Irish Ferries’ is to launch services on the Dover-Calais route in June suggests that competition on the Channel is hotting up again. While the single vessel being transferred from the Irish Sea for the start of the new service in June is unlikely in itself to create a glut of capacity, Irish Ferries does have the might of Irish Continental Group and its major fl eet resources behind it. The operator has made no secret of the fact that it plans to step up operations further in future. Then came the news that DFDS was planning to start a new service for unaccompanied freight between Calais and Sheerness, a port that has not seen regular ferries since the demise of Olau Line’s Vlissingen route in 1994. The cross-Channel freight market has not been too badly aff ected by the Covid crisis, and indeed the unaccompanied segment has been given a boost by the shortage of truck drivers and draconian quarantine restrictions. Brexit remains an unknown quantity, but the hope is that volumes will ultimately not be too badly aff ected. All in all, it promises to be quite a lively time on the Short Straits.

It may seem like only yesterday that we were seeing in the New Year – in mostly very subdued circumstances – but the reality is that over three months have passed since 1 January and the start of ‘real Brexit’. Indications from the trade are that it is, slowly, beginning to get to grips with the new customs regime, although Offi ce for National Statistics reports of a 40% drop in exports to the EU and a near 30% fall in imports during January are scarcely encouraging. Chances are that business will adapt, partly by embracing customs clearance again aſt er nearly three decades or introducing concepts such as delivered Duty Paid but also by making fairly radical changes to supply chains. Walker Logistics reports that a growing number of UK online retailers are shiſt ing their stockholdings to Europe. Soſt ware fi rm Descartes is even urging larger importers to consider setting up their own External Temporary Storage Facilities to minimise disruption – an eff ective, though not necessarily cheap, way of resolving the issues.

Issue 3 2021 - 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!

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