Hauliers and importers on both sides of the Irish Sea and Channel are becoming increasingly concerned that the UK’s borders will not be ready in time for the end of transition on 31 December 2020.
The UK will stop trading under EU rules from 1 January 2021 and businesses will be faced with new customs requirements, regardless of whether a deal for the future relationship is agreed to or not.
Industry bodies in both the UK and the EU continue to express concern that the UK’s technological solutions to managing these new administrative requirements will not be ready in time for the start of next year.
Irish hauliers question Holyhead's readiness
Irish hauliers are particularly concerned about preparations at Holyhead port, according to the BBC. Holyhead is the UK’s second biggest RoRo port after Dover, handling 1,200 lorries and trailers a day which cross the Irish Sea.
Although checks won’t be introduced on all goods entering Great Britain from the EU until July 2021 – as per the government’s three-phase plan – goods moving the other way will require declarations to be completed from 1 January.
The President of the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA), Eugene Drennan, said there was a rush to get systems established to ensure this trade can continue to move smoothly from 1 January 2021.
Although Drennan believes the Irish side has a degree of preparedness, he described the UK’s systems as “cumbersome” and claimed they were “not ready at all”.
However, Ian Davies, head of UK Port Authorities at vessel operator Stena Line – which runs Holyhead – said the port would be live-testing its systems and training staff over the next two weeks.
“We have always planned on the worst case scenario of no-deal because that’s the only thing you can base your preparations on and so we are now confident that we are in the right place for that,” he said.
Trialling lorry queues in Kent
Meanwhile, a trial of new customs systems by French authorities yesterday caused five-mile lorry queues in Kent.
The Guardian reported that Police Aux Frontières, the French Border Force, were rehearsing new immigration procedures.
These new procedures could add 70 seconds per passenger – including checking passports, the passenger’s destination and other details.
Fears of congestion at the ports post-transition are compounded by the recent problems experienced at the port of Felixstowe.
The port has been struggling to service shippers due to a lack of capacity since September
One forwarder told The Loadstar: “It’s a total mess and I fully understand the angry reaction from importers.”