The United Kingdom will not be leaving the European Union by 31 October 2019. Nevertheless, it is advisable not to simply return to "business as usual" in maritime transport with the UK simply because Brussels has extended the Brexit deadline until 31 January 2020. "We now recommend customers who need security in their supply chain to test alternative routes for their overseas transports," says Alf Hoernig, General Manager Seafreight Import and Customs Service at a. hartrodt in Hamburg.
Containers could be delayed in Southampton
For overseas transports from the Far East to the UK, for example, alternative routes offer a safety advantage. Before reaching the first EU port of discharge, the cargo manifest with all ports of call and containers on board must be made available to the EU customs authorities. "If the ship calls at a British port like Southampton, there could be customs problems with Brexit," explains Hoernig. The carrier would then have to send isolated information to British customs. The experts at a. hartrodt assume that numerous containers could be unloaded and not cleared. "There is a certain explosive in there," warns Hoernig.
Stopover of containers in north-west European ports
In order to avoid problems from the outset, Hoernig advises to try out alternatives at an early stage, e.g. via Antwerp or Rotterdam. "The short sea connections between the north-west European ports and the UK work well", he reports from the experience at a. hartrodt. Containers can be "parked" in Antwerp or Rotterdam under EU customs supervision. Hoernig: "This has the advantage that any customs clearance problems that may arise in the British port of discharge are avoided". The risk of storage fees can also be minimised in this way.
On the British east coast, the private port operator Associated British Ports (ABP) invested GBP 50 million (EUR 58 million) in the container terminals of Hull and Immingham before the original Brexit date at the end of January. Hoernig considers Hull in particular to be an "interesting alternative" with feeders. However, he points out that short-sea shipping basically extends and increases the price of overseas transports to the UK.
Even if the question marks about Brexit do not decrease – a. hartrodt keeps all customers up to date, also for customs clearance.
Helpful information, such as a Brexit checklist, can also be found on the Chamber of Commerce website: https://www.ihk.de/brexitcheck-en