Government updates on impact of upcoming strikes, ALVS downtime and minister's Felixstowe visit

Thu 26 Jan 2023
Posted by: William Barns-Graham
Trade News

Felixstowe port at night

The Institute of Export & International Trade (IOE&IT), serving as a key interlocutor between government and industry, continually updates its members and the wider trade community about major developments affecting UK trade.

These include updates from the government about upcoming civil service strikes, downtime on the Automatic Licence Verification System (ALVS) and a recent visit to a key port in Suffolk by the environment minister.

The first two were communicated by HMRC to the Joint Customs Consultative Committee (JCCC), of which IOE&IT is a member.

Impact of 1 February strikes at UK ports

There is a scheduled strike of up to 100,000 civil service members of the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union on Wednesday 1 February. Although HMRC staff will not be participating, the industrial action will include UK-based Home Office staff, including some from Border Force.

JCCC has advised that the strikes will impact the movement of goods through UK ports and airports on Wednesday, as well as goods travelling to the UK from UK border controls in Calais, Dunkirk and Coquilles in France. The disruption could last into the morning of Thursday 2 February.

JCCC has advised traders to move goods outside of this period, if possible, but if a postponement is not possible, JCCC has said that traders should be braced for possible delays at ports and Inland Border Facilities (IBF). Firms can check IBF site availability here.

For those carrying merchandise in baggage under £1500/1000kg, which does not contained licensed items, the simplest way to declare these goods is through a simplified online declaration. More guidance is available here.

ALVS downtime on 19 February

JCCC also warned members that essential maintenance is being conducted on ALVS between 8am and 9pm on Sunday 19 February 2023, affecting declarations submitted through the Customs Declaration Service (CDS) or the Customs Handling of Import Export Freight (CHIEF) system that require automatic approval from ALVS.

JCCC says this will affect companies moving live animals and fresh produce in particular. Border authorities will be using manual processes to clear such good movements at the border, which may take slightly longer than usual. The government is asking traders to try to avoid moving goods during this timeframe if possible.

Traders that cannot postpone their goods movements are advised to start their journey as usual but send requests for clearance direct to the National Clearance Hub (NCH). NCH is authorised to manually clear all live animals requiring a Common Health Entry Document (CHED).

The Procedure for Electronic Application for Certificates from the Horticultural Marketing Inspectorate (PEACH) and eDomero remain unaffected, so NCH is already authorised to clear all goods subject to Plant Health and Speed Inspectorate (PHSI) or Horticulture Market Inspectorate (HMI) regulations.

ALVS users should use the request for manual release form found on and submit a fully completed CHED with the request to NCH. More information can be found here

Environment secretary visits Suffolk port authorities

Thérèse Coffey, the environment minister, visited one of Britain’s busiest container ports to see how checks are performed on imported food and animal products.

The Suffolk Coastal Port Health Authority (SCPHA) ensures the safety of such imports at ports in Felixstowe, Harwich and Ipswich. Coffey was visiting the Port of Felixstowe and toured around the Border Control Post (BCP) designed to examine imports.

Coffey, whose constituency is the Suffolk Coast, said:

“As the constituency MP as well as Environment Secretary, I’m conscious of the need to ensure they have the resources to ensure the smooth flow of import and exports.

“DEFRA has previously provided funding for preventative screening checks for African Swine Fever, for example, related to a recent case to stop the import of smuggled meats. I will continue to work with the Authority to help protect public health.”

SCPHA port health manager, Richard Jacobs, said the visit was a “good opportunity to provide insight into the essential role port health plays in protecting public health and animal welfare from the threats encountered at our borders.”