Post-transition border controls faced their first test yesterday (4 January) on the first working day of the year, but the flow of freight moving across the Dover-Calais strait remained slower than usual.
France’s new €50m smart border infrastructure was largely unused with traffic flowing at around a fifth of its normal level.
Customs officials at Calais waited until midday to check their first vehicle of the day, the BBC reports.
Goods moving between the UK and EU are free of tariffs and quotas following the trade deal concluded on New Year’s Eve, but new regulatory and customs checks still apply.
It had been feared that these new checks could result in long traffic jams of lorries trying to move goods through the UK’s major ports, particularly at Dover. This has not yet proved to be the case, however.
“Brexit is not synonymous with congestion,” the president of Calais port, Jean-Marc Puissesseau, told the BBC.
He did admit that the real test will come in the next few weeks as volumes begin to ramp up to normal levels.
Cost of moving UK-EU freight surges
Despite the so far smooth flowing of goods between the UK and EU, the cost of moving freight from France to the UK has surged more than four times, according to Bloomberg.
The rising costs are the result of both the new Covid-19 variant and shippers anticipating added administrative costs as a result of the end of the transition.
Spot rates for last-minute shipments across the Channel reached €6 per kilometre for a full truckload at the end of last year, compared with a usual average of €1.50-3.
The figures, from global logistics platform Transporeon, reflect the disruption at British ports in December when the French government shut the border to contain the new strain of Covid-19.
Thousands of trucks piled up on both sides of the Channel and several shippers rejected cargo to avoid getting trapped in transit.
Higher rates to remain
Although the new year has so far seen shorter queues, there are fears that jams could return as both countries adapt to new trading arrangements.
Stephan Sieber, chief executive officer of Transporeon, predicted that higher rates for UK transport from continental Europe were likely to continue, although it was hard to tell how long for.