30 director of

Issue 4 2021 - Freight Business Journal

island. There will be longer term economic effects

directions. The Europa Road/WJ Parnis

too, Stephen

Brexit has, predictably enough, caused a fair amount of havoc to trade between the UK and Malta, says Stephen Parnis England, managing


groupage operator, WJ Parnis England. From being a simple matter of

despatch notes, since 1 January the full panoply of customs clearances, packing lists and commercial invoices have been required. Some traders have failed to realise what is needed and have failed to provide correct documentation, with predictable results. As well as the need for customs

entries, traders must also get used to paying VAT at the border rather than at point of sale. “It’s all been a bit of a nightmare,”

he says. “There is no doubt that the UK has suffered, with traders switching away to other countries. Some people

have given up

importing from the UK, and there’s no doubt that trade has dropped, as the business has gone to other countries.” While there are some goods

that will continue to come from Britain – car parts, printed matter, medicines and pharmaceuticals, largely because of the language factor - importers of goods where this is less of an issue, such as

packaging, have oſten switched to suppliers in Continental Europe. Fortunately, Parnis England runs

other trailer groupage services to and from other EU countries including Italy in partnership with Siſte Berti and Andreas Schmidt and Loxx Logistics in Germany and BF Logistics for the Benelux countries. But when a customer switches, there is no guarantee that they will use the same trailer operator, if they have a pre-existing arrangement with another company for that country. Parnis

England’s UK agent,

Europa Road, is also well versed in customs matters, which certainly helps in the current climate. “Our services will carry on,” says

Stephen Parnis England. “We are still averaging 4-5 trailers a week, including double deckers; in some weeks, it’s been seven or eight.” The company has had to

employ additional staff to cope with Brexit; one of the few benefits of the on-going Covid crisis is that other firms laid off their experienced customs agents, so people were readily available, in stark contrast to the situation in 2019. The company has also

enlarged the non-EU portion of its warehouse to cope with the upsurge in clearances and has also

become one of the few forwarders on Malta to gain AEO certification, in addition to its existing ISO certification. Advantages of AEO are faster, priority clearance and being considered a trusted customs partner, says Stephen Parnis England. Covid has of course also had

a marked effect on Malta’s trade. There was probably some benefit to manufacturers of medical equipment based on the island, as well as increased inbound volumes of medical-related material, but this was more than offset by the virtual disappearance of the tourist trade, which clearly has had an enormous effect on the volume of traffic moving into the

Parnis England points out, as all the government support to business and individuals will eventually have to be paid for. The huge disruption to global

trade has also had its effect on Malta. With ocean freight rates soaring by up to 1,000%, coupled with delays and non-availability of containers, some importers have definitely thought twice about importing from Asia and have switched to European alternatives, where these are available. On the plus side, Malta’s limited

export trade has held up well, says Stephen Parnis England. Demand for electronic components, car parts and the like has proved to be fairly recession- and Covid-proof. This is of particular interest for WJ Parnis England as, unlike many other Malta-based carriers it has a reasonably balanced trade in both

Air Malta keeps island lifeline open

It has been said many times in the past, but national carrier Air Malta is a critical lifeline for the island nation. And while that has been proved many times over, it proved to be even more critical for the islands of Malta and Gozo during this testing time. Head of cargo sales, John

Vella, explained: “The airline was crucial in maintaining a link for essential

cargo including PPE,

medical equipment and supplies, life saving medicines, vaccines, radioactive medicinal products, humanitarian shipments and a wide range of other pharma.” Any island nation is heavily

dependent on its airline for anything that is urgently required such as medical supplies – even

live organs for donation – that cannot go by sea. It is also a need that low-cost carriers, most of whom do not carry cargo at all, cannot possibly fulfil. The Maltese airline also

provided an essential link for local manufacturing industry to export its products. It carried the Island’s post, both point to point on its services to major hubs like London Heathrow, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Amsterdam Schiphol, Brussels, Frankfurt and Rome–Fiumicino, as well as through interline carrier partners that provide a worldwide reach.

In 2020 Air Malta carried over

3,000 tonnes of imports and exports. The carrier chartered a number

Yachts keep john Ripard buoyant

Valletta-based John Ripard and Son (JRS) says that far being quiet during the recent pandemic, its yachting business has seen a surge of activity. Director Joseph Chetcuti says: “We are now partnered with another high profile yachting company in Malta through which we operate a significant activity in watercraft sales and servicing; plus the management of a yacht marina in the Grand Harbour of Valletta.”

The John Ripard group,

through its RLR subsidiary, is one of the island’s major yacht chandlers, and can deliver boats from anywhere in the Med – mostly under sail, though they can be loaded aboard commercial vessels if required. Chetcuti adds that yachting

was one of the few forms of recreation not restricted by the virus. If you live in Malta and are fortunate enough to own a yacht, what better way of

England service is a stand-alone operation, running directly via Genoa in Italy into Valetta. There is ample ferry capacity on the route to and from the island, with Grimaldi remaining the biggest provider. The other operator, Tirrenia, dropped out earlier in the year buts its vessels were promptly replaced by those of GNV, which had previously been running as a slot charter operation, so healthy competition levels have been maintained. One service launched in 2019

that has lapsed is the car-carrying service from the UK to Malta, aimed mainly at dealers or private importers of second hand cars operated in conjunction with Hyundai’s vehicle logistics arm using car transporter trailers and shipping services from Genova. This was a victim of the increased paperwork resulting

of its passenger aircraſt as stand- in freighters during the Covid period for the carriage of PPE for the Maltese Government. With increased demand, Air Malta operated a number cargo only flights that used both the belly holds and cabin loading to maximise capacity. Like airlines around the world,

Air Malta is eagerly anticipating the return of passenger travel. Chief commercial officer, Roy Kinnear, states: “We are happy to note the success of the vaccination rollouts in many countries, especially in Malta. Such successes augur well for a restart in tourism and the airline encourages efforts to speed up processes. Only through such coordinated initiatives can states safely start to relax their travel restrictions and we can see an increased demand for travel and more opportunities for cargo transport.”

spending the time than to go for a sail in a healthy environment – though there are of course restrictions on landing in other countries. The company is also active

in the air. It is a shareholder in Malta’s only third party airside ground handling company, Aviaserve, which serves both the cargo and passenger markets. The company is also agent

for MSC – both cruise and containers – and the latter has been going great guns lately, says Chetcuti. It has operated two

services over Malta since 2020 but lately it has


from Brexit, although the assets have been retained and the service could be reactivated whenever the demand re-emerges, says Stephen Parnis England. As a leſt-hand- drive country, options for second hand car imports into Malta are limited; one possibility might be to buy from Ireland instead. While this would simplify bureaucracy, it would entail a longer – possibly double - ferry journey with all the extra cost that that entails. WJ Parnis England is also

involved in liner agency, including OOCL’s deep-sea services as part of the Ocean consortium, Marfret’s service from the Caribbean and Central America to the Mediterranean and Brointermed’s Italy/Malta/Libya service. Trade to Libya is currently at a

low ebb. While efforts to broker a peace continue, low oil prices and the Covid pandemic have taken their toll on the North African country.

Together with initiatives like

the digital green certificate that would allow EU citizens who have been vaccinated, tested negative or recovered from Covid-19 to travel more freely within the EU, the airline is confident and encouraged that the recovery will open up. In recent years, the carrier has

added new routes and introduced new A320neo aircraſt. Before the pandemic, cargo

at Air Malta had been growing at 6%, the strongest of any major EU carrier. The airfreight market out of Malta largely consists of electronics, automotive components fresh fish and pharmaceuticals, carried by Air Malta

direct to destination or

in conjunction with its partner airlines around the world. Airlines do however face stiff

competition from road trailer operators.

shifted operations from other Mediterranean hubs and at the time of writing was handling four services with seven vessel calls a week. Some of the extra calls may be due to the various disruptions to global shipping but Chetcuti is hopeful that at least some of the extra business will be retained. But, he concludes: “Overall

business has not been easy during the pandemic although Government support has been very helpful. I am quite cautious going forward. There will always be opportunities but it is difficult to have a long term vision.”

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