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16


Issue 4 2021 - Freight Business Journal


///RO-RO


Keeping the country on the move


That the country didn’t entirely grind to a halt as a result of the many crises of the past 12 months was due in large part to those unsung heroes, the ferry operators.


hauliers to use the Check an HGV system. Veitch added that one of


Brexit did not lead to long lines of trucks at the Channel ports, due mainly to “a monumental effort” by the freight industry to keep things moving, Logistics UK told an online session of the Coastlink short sea shipping conference on 22 April. However, the full picture of


its effect on the UK’s trade with Europe had yet to emerge, said Alex Veitch, the organisation’s general manager for public policy. Examining the latest figures from the Government’s Office


for National Statistics


(ONS), he said it was encouraging that there had been a strong recovery in British exports in February following January’s sharp decline. However, more data would be needed before it


could be said that the recovery would be permanent and long- lasting, he added. Figures from Logistics UK’s


sister organisation in Ireland, FTAI, meanwhile pointed to a doubling of direct ferry services from Ireland to Continental Europe to avoid potential blockages on the UK landbridge route. Again,


though, it was


too early to say if the change would be permanent. However, Ireland’s recent experience could be a pointer to how the wider ro ro market in the British Isles might perform. While the trade seems


to have coped reasonably well with the re-imposition of customs controls on UK exports to the EU, the situation


“could start to get sticky again” in January next year when the UK is due to introduce full import clearances from the EU, as well as Safety and Security declarations, which could pose a headache for exporters to the UK. Later this year, Sanitary and Phytosanitary checks will also begin to be introduced, which could pose further headaches for traders. Veitch said: “The full


economic consequences of Brexit are too soon to call.” However, just about


all the


new controls will be in place by January-March next year. Logistics UK was however


encouraged by the recent removal of the Kent Access Permit and


the need for


the perhaps unexpected consequences of Brexit had been “a really fresh and invigorated customs department” which was now giving helpful advice and briefings to traders on media such as Youtube. HMRC was also working very hard at helping companies become trusted traders and generally moving as much customs compliance as possible upstream away from the physical border. Also addressing Coastlink, Pratt,


Alan chief executive


of liner agency John Good Shipping said he believed that there had been a marked shift on the Channel from accompanied to unaccompanied trailers, with a 20% increase in such traffic at Tilbury alone. However, there could eventually be some knock-on effects including a possible shortage of short-sea


container capacity, although rates so far had remained relatively stable, in contrast with deepsea container shipping. There could also be delays with inland haulage. Nevertheless, he concluded,


a move to short-sea solutions “could


drive reliability into


supply chains”. Another shift in the ro ro


market, identified by Peel Ports commercial director Stephen Carr, was from the central to the northern corridor on the Irish Sea. The latter now accounted for 60% of the Irish Sea trade compared


with 47% before


Brexit. As for the total Irish Sea


market, while at face value there had been a significant fall after Brexit, some of this was due to pre-Brexit stockpiling with only a small amount being lost to the Ireland/Continent direct routes, notwithstanding the large increase in the number of services on the latter.


However, he added that


anecdotal evidence suggested that there had also been something of a shift away from Dover and the Short Straits to longer crossings between England and the Continent with new routes being operated between Sheerness and Calais, between Immingham and Cuxhaven and between Iberia and Liverpool – all of them catering for unaccompanied rather than accompanied trailers. He added that while the central corridor routes between GB and Ireland had seen a fall- off in favour of the Northern Irish routes, this was much more marked for accompanied rather than unaccompanied traffic, with the former falling by half, the latter by only about a third. It remained to be seen


whether the changes were only a short term phenomenon or a permanent change in the market.


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