Frank Zapper once commented that the world might not end in fire or ice, but in paperwork. For much of the international logistics sector, January felt exactly like slow death by paperwork, with customs clearances piling up in their software systems, and the freight piling up in the warehouses.
As freight flows normalise and the bureaucracy becomes more familiar, can we sort the ‘teething problems’ from the urgent and serious threats to supply chain integrity?
Freight volumes plummeted in January. As much as the government tried to play it down, citing ‘almost normal’ figures, early freight volumes were significantly low, and details snagged a huge proportion of freight going to Europe, even if HGVs coming the other way are still being waved through.
Andrew Baxter, pictured, MD of Europa Worldwide Group, said that, despite huge amounts of investment and preparation, January was “incredibly difficult. The sheer range of different issues meant everything was being blocked for some reason. We didn’t stop running our services at any point but we did have a backlog because we simply couldn’t process the customs clearances quickly enough.”
Europa was hit by disruption despite having invested £5m in being customs-ready and moving 85% of its customers to its new ‘Europa Flow’ product last year. The service ensures that goods are sent under delivered duty paid (DDP) terms, so that all clearances are done under Customs regime 42, which means that the goods are zero-rated for VAT at their destination. In essence all duties and clearances are done ahead of time – an anticipatory declaration is made that is validated while the truck is still in transit between the UK and mainland Europe.
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