Proposed Changes To Cabotage Tantamount To Modern Slavery

PML’s response to the Transport Secretary Grant Shapps comments on Good Morning Britain, 15.10.21

Mike Parr, managing director of PML – Perishable Movements Ltd – appeared on ITV’s Good Morning Britain on the 15 th of October 2021, to offer his viewpoint on the proposed changes to the HGV driver regulations.

The UK government is planning to temporarily amend cabotage rules – which currently requires HGV drivers from the EU to only spend seven days in the UK, with permission to stop up to twice to deliver goods or collect more. Under the new rules which could be in place for six months, EU drivers will be able to stay for two weeks and will have no restrictions on the number of stops they can make. Ministers claim the move will alleviate the current supply chain issues, offering a faster solution than increasing the number of drivers which is hindered by the lengthy training process and / or dependent on attracting existing drivers back into the industry.

Speaking on TV, Parr expressed his concerns regarding the human costs associated with the relaxation of the current rules which will result in over-worked drivers.

“This amounts to modern slavery, you’re putting the general public at risk, you’re putting the drivers at risk, somebody needs to be held accountable if thing do go wrong and unfortunately, there could possibly be fatalities. That has to be stopped”.

Grant Shapps MP subsequently dismissed Parr’s claims, implying that the new plan – which is intended to be in place before Christmas – carried no risk for drivers or the general public. Mr Shapps cited the Working Time Directive as the reason why the drivers wouldn’t be able to work for extended hours, saying “there’s no chance of people being able to drive longer hours than anyone domestically”.

PML’s response to the blatant rebuttal of any safety concerns is summarised below:

  • The Working Time Directive does not stop European drivers putting in longer driving hours when they are in the UK. As long as their hours average out over the 17-week period it will, for example, be possible for them to drive for three days of 15 hours and two days of 12 hours as long as the hours average out when they return to their homeland. The whole area of driver hours is very difficult to police because of the fact that hours are reviewed over a time period enabling drivers to effectively ‘roll hours ‘over
  • Under the proposed plans, it will also be possible for drivers to take on back-to-back drops coming from Europe to the UK
  • The Transport Secretary is right in saying that cabotage is not new but in Europe, only three drops are allowed during a seven-day period – compared to the two currently allowed in the UK. How can moving to unlimited drops in a two-week period be acceptable?
  • The facilities for drivers in Europe are far better. There are safe spaces for them to park, shower, eat and drink, get a good sleep. Sadly, this is not the case in the UK, the drivers will not have the same quality rest breaks that are essential to the driver – and the general public’s – safety. UK drivers will ultimately return home during the week but not so for a European driver on a two-week contract
  • Statistics are readily available from RoSPA which show that not only are left-hand drive HGVs 3.4 times more likely to be involved in a crash than right-hand drive HGVs, but foreign-registered HGVs also tend to have much higher prohibition rates than UK registered HGVs for a range of offences. In addition, the study found that left-hand drive HGV drivers were more likely to be at least partially at fault for the accidents in which they were involved, and the contributory factor most often assigned to them was ‘failed to look properly – often associated with their vehicle’s blind spot, which was a factor in 76% of the accidents in the study. Furthermore, foreign drivers understandingly found driving in Britain more difficult due to the unfamiliar road layout and road user behaviour. See below, source RoSPA Road Safety Factsheet, Left Hand Drive Large Goods Vehicles, March 2021

On the basis of these facts, PML urges the government to reconsider the proposal and place a stronger emphasis on the safety and welfare of HGV drivers. If an accident does occur, the outcome can be life-changing, for both the victim and his / her family and the driver. HGV drivers are not a ‘commodity’ that can simply be bought in, as essential key workers they deserve to be treated with more dignity and greater respect.

Ultimately, is it possible to trust a Secretary of State for Transport who at 06.30am staunchly advised that the Port of Felixstowe was not experiencing any serious congestion problems, when at 10.30am the same day, PML and many others were in receipt of an email from MSC advising that: ‘due to continued congestion currently being experienced by all users of the Port of Felixstowe and to limit the impact to the service you receive from MSC, we will not be accepting empty restitutions into Felixstowe effective from 12 noon Friday 15th October.’  This does little to instil confidence that the government has a genuine understanding of – let alone grip on – the current situation. Or that the statements being issued are to be believed.

Response to suggested relaxation of cabotage rules

Perishable Movements Ltd – the provider of world-class logistics and supply chain solutions – has responded to reports relating to a potential relaxation of the rules governing the number of permitted deliveries a transport operator from another EU Member State can make within the UK – known as cabotage (Regulation (EC) 1072/2009).

Currently, under the terms of the UK-EU trade deal, non-UK EU hauliers are entitled to perform up to two extra cabotage operations within a seven-day period, commencing the day after delivering a load into Britain. This is in contrast to the three cabotage operations that are permitted within EU member states. The original purpose of the ruling was to improve the efficiency of road freight transport by reducing empty trips after the unloading of international transport operations.

European hauliers have called upon the Prime Minister to change the UK rules to enable drivers to perform three cabotage operations to make any trip to the UK worthwhile whilst also resolving the country’s current supply chain crisis. However, whilst we welcome the valued support of the European driver workforce, PML does not believe that this plan – if it comes to fruition – would be in the best interests of the drivers concerned.

Once again, this would represent a total disregard for driver safety and welfare. As a business, we have already spoken out on a number of occasions on the poor working environment for HGV drivers operating in the UK, who frankly, are regularly exposed to unsatisfactory – even inhumane – conditions. In this country, there is an abject failure to meet the basic needs of drivers to ensure they are able to perform their duties. As fellow human beings, they are entitled to access to facilities that provide them with a safe and secure place to park without fear of a break-in; essential shower and toilet amenities; healthy food and drink and designated spots for a well-earned break and sleep without fear of abuse or disruption.

By not providing these essential services, we are putting the safety of drivers at risk. And let’s not forget, a driver who has not had sufficient sleep or who is hungry/thirsty is potentially a driver more pre-disposed to causing an accident and therefore represents a significant danger.

Increasing the number of operations, EU drivers are able to perform in the UK – a country which, when compared with its European counterparts, has a very poor track record for the provision of services to encourage driver welfare and wellbeing – is a recipe for disaster.

At a time when HGV drivers are under such tremendous pressure, PML is working hard to demonstrate its duty of care to these essential workers, and we have exciting plans afoot at our new Lympne, Kent operation which will offer a suite of services to support driver health and comfort, delivered in a safe and secure environment.

The Reality Of The Supply Chain Crisis

Mike Parr, Managing Director PML

Morrisons, Marks & Spencer and The Food & Drink Federation have all publicly commented on the serious supply chain crisis which is threatening the nation. As a leading industry player and provider of world class logistics and supply chain solutions, PML forecast the current scenario and its dire consequences almost 12 months ago.

We are facing these issues on a daily basis.

The HGV driver shortage is paralysing the industry. More needs to be done to support the wellbeing of these important individuals who represent the lifeline to maintaining essential food & drink as well as medical supplies to the UK.

Logistics firms are being hammered with a new ‘driver retention fee’ in addition to the traditional sea freight container charges, which can be as much as £150 per container. This kind of exploitation is only adding to what is already a difficult situation and forcing firms to review their charges to the end customer to allow for these demands.

The government has supposedly prepared importers of perishables so that they are capable of undertaking the complicated paperwork associated with customs clearance post Brexit. It is bordering on ignorance to assume that anyone can navigate their way through the system with no previous experience of this specialist sector. It takes years of training for an import clerk to be up to speed with the detailed and ever changing requirements imposed by DEFRA – including not just the stringent import regulations but also the approval required to collect goods from a transit shed – yet the inference is, that this is just a ‘basic job’ that anyone can turn their hand to. Pointing importers to the government website to help them understand the requirements is just not going to cut it.

I’m afraid I don’t concur with the Prime Minister’s recent assurance that there is no impending crisis regarding food supplies. Sadly, I predict quite the opposite and envisage that by January 2022 nothing short of chaos will reign. The reality is that our industry is more affected by the pandemic now than we were last year, due to the ‘pingdemic’; the growing number of Covid cases requiring personnel to isolate for 10 days and the reluctance of many of our European drivers to be vaccinated.

Combine the HGV driver shortage, the customs clearance issues and the impact of the pandemic and it is plain to see that the country is destined to be facing some very challenging conditions. Surely the government should have seen some of this coming and prepared for these problems? The approach taken by the powers that be seems to be very much reactive rather than proactive – if I ran my business in this way, we would have gone bust.

The latest news is that Britain is poised to delay additional post-Brexit customs checks due to come into force on 1st October,
for the second time amid concerns they could fuel further disruption in the run-up to Christmas.

The fact is, there should be a long-term strategy in place to deal with all of these concerns. Not just for Christmas but in the years ahead …

PML Offers To Fund HGV Driver Training

PML is taking action to address the current acute shortage of HGV drivers
in the UK.

The world-class logistics and supply chain solutions provider is offering to pay for the training of eight dedicated drivers, to be based at both the company’s London Heathrow headquarters as well as the soon to be opened Lympne, Kent facility.

Mike Parr, managing director of PML has announced that the company will, if necessary, finance the complete training for the right candidates, as long as the applicants are able to demonstrate PML’s hallmark commitment to the highest standard of customer service.

PML has previously voiced its concerns over the welfare of drivers, supporting Logistics UK’s comments regarding the banning of lorry parking for more than 45 minutes at a time in laybys across Kent and responding with news of the upcoming operation at Lympne which will provide vital safe parking and additional welfare facilities.

Commenting, Mike Parr said, “The HGV driver shortage is reaching crisis point and the knock-on effect of this impacting on the supply of essential fresh produce and pharmaceutical goods is something that we at PML predicted six months ago. Lorry drivers responsible for delivering vital food and pharmacy supplies are without doubt essential workers, and we ensure that that as such, they are well rewarded when they join the company, not only by a favourable package of benefits but also in terms of providing best-in-class facilities for them to access whilst they are working to ensure their continued physical and mental wellbeing.”

Anyone interested in joining PML as an HGV driver should contact

PML promotes Richard Hoyte to Technical Director

Perishable Movements Ltd (PML) has promoted Richard Hoyte to the role of Technical Director.

Richard, who first joined the company in 2010 as a Warehouse Manager, has progressed within the business during his 11-year tenure working his way up to the position of Production and Transport Manager prior to his promotion.

In addition to the vast experience gained at PML, Richard previously spent seven years working for another large fresh produce handler, a role which included overseeing the efficient distribution of produce for The School Fruit and Vegetable Scheme in the South of England.

Originally from Barbados, Richard came to the UK in 1985 where he spent 15 years in the manufacturing sector.

The newly created position at PML will see Richard assuming responsibility for a total staff of 50 including the company’s transport and warehouse and packing managers. He will work alongside his fellow directors at a strategic level to maintain PML’s commitment to constantly improving the efficiency and standard of service for which the company is renowned.

A key priority for Richard will be ensuring the technical systems and procedures which are currently in place at the Heathrow HQ are seamlessly rolled out at PML’s new satellite operation in Kent – where he will be based one day a week.

Commenting on the promotion, Richard said, “PML has an excellent track record for developing its staff and I’m delighted to have been given this opportunity to further hone the company’s proven technical capabilities associated with its credentials as a leading player in the transfer of temperature-sensitive goods. PML’s is committed to investing in new technologies to offer best in class solutions to its customers and I’m
looking forward to playing an even stronger role in helping to identify, source and introduce further future proof innovations which will strengthen the company’s status as the global perishable cargo specialist.”

Response to HMRC Decision for Dover Lorry Clearance Park

Perishable Movements Ltd – the provider of world-class logistics and supply chain solutions – has responded to the recent news that plans for a 1,200-lorry customs clearance park in Dover have been overhauled.

HM Revenues and Customs (HMRC) has now made dramatic changes to the original scheme, resulting in a facility that is a quarter of what was originally anticipated (space for just 96 lorries and 20 extra spaces for reversing trucks) without the anticipated Border Control Post (BCP which would have covered out physical health checks on chilled and frozen food. HMRC will now only conduct the required customs paperwork checks at the site with the additional physical inspections being moved to a further site at Whitfield.

“PML wishes to reassure all those involved in the transfer of perishable cargo that while works at the Dover site have yet to begin (building is not due to start until February or March 2022), PML is already well underway with the refurbishment of its recently acquired 100,000 sq. foot site at nearby Lympne which will have the capacity to park up to 60 trailers in its first stage of the development, with scope for a further 40 in stage two.

PML will also be applying for remote HMRC / DEFRA approved BCP status at the site to enable physical checks and has the capacity to unload 14 lorries at any one time – whilst retaining temperature-controlled conditions – ensuring a streamline and seamless transit of consignments out of the Port of Dover.

The PML Lympne facility is sited on a business park, thus minimising disruption to residents and is being developed without any detrimental impact to any local heritage sites (the Dover lorry park would have originally destroyed an ancient Roman way). In addition to providing an efficient and smooth operation, with no breaks in the cold chain, the extensive development of the site will include superb additional amenities for HGV drivers, who for far too long, have been denied access to vital safe parking and general welfare facilities. We anticipate the site will be operational from the end of October although at this point, we are unable to advise of a date for confirmation of BCP status as this is out of our hands. However, rest assured, PML will be working tirelessly to progress this.

At a time when HGV drivers are under such tremendous pressure, PML is doing everything in its power to demonstrate a duty of care to these essential workers, enabling them to fulfil their driving responsibilities and offering a speedy, safe, and ultimately, comfortable route out of Dover.”

PML tackling the Carbon Emissions target

PML Article in Focus Feature July 2021

This month #PML‘s Mike Parr is a guest contributor to the Chartered Institute of Logistics and Transport’s magazine to talk about tackling the carbon emissions target.

Perishable Movements Ltd (PML), the global perishable cargo specialist, is taking a proactive approach to reducing the company’s carbon emissions. For a business that is focused on the transfer of temperature sensitive cargo by air, road and sea, this is a sizeable challenge and one which requires a matched input from those responsible for addressing the emissions associated with these modes of transport.

For its part, PML has researched the opportunity to switch to electric trucks, as well as reviewing the potential to move to more sustainable fuel types. To date, despite investing considerable time to seek out suitable alternatives, the options remain very limited and are currently not commercially viable.

As of 1 st April of this year, the entire fleet of PML trucks (which amounts to 9 artics) are Euro VI compliant, which represents a positive step towards controlling carbon monoxide, hydrocarbon and nitrogen oxide emissions.

The Sales Director has taken delivery of an electric company car and as and when company car renewals arise, PML will look at a shift toward electric or at least hybrid vehicles. This is despite the hefty price tag associated with such purchases, an investment that is worthwhile given the clear benefits to the environment.

Our 64,000 square foot warehouse regularly receives and packs consignments of food and as such, generates a substantial amount of cardboard and polythene-based packaging. The business now recycles all of its cardboard and polythene to minimise the contribution to landfill and maximise the potential to reuse these materials.

As a logistics business, we have a significant number of employees who are charged with providing administrative support. The back office to PML’s operations is essential to its success and while it may not be able to fully address the emissions targets via our transport teams, the office is making great strides in adopting new environmentally friendly practices.

At our Heathrow headquarters, we have taken the decision to change 80% of our lighting to being motion-sensor driven, resulting in a reduction in electricity consumption which in turn, will negatively impact on the business’s carbon emissions footprint.

Looking ahead, PML is about to take on a new facility outside of the Heathrow area and we are proud to confirm that these premises will be featuring solar panels which will also help to reduce electricity usage and therefore will contribute to a drop in carbon emissions.

PML is focused on looking at further ways in which to operate as an environmentally responsible business and will continue to adopt new practices which will enable it to deliver against the sustainability agenda. However, this is surely an area where the industry needs to unite to instigate real change?

We would advocate that an industry-wide initiative is launched which specifically targets the need to tackle carbon emissions, which enables us to work with those involved in providing the vehicles which we are so reliant on. Manufacturers of trucks need to feel reassured that there is a genuine appetite for change and more needs to be done to ensure that there are financial incentives for investing in eco-friendly modes of transport which will go towards offsetting the initial inflated upfront payment.

There needs to be clearer thinking about we work together to improve emissions. We’ve already seen a clear example of how the push towards demonstrating clear commitment to environmental concerns can sometimes be at the expense of failing to recognise a detrimental effect on a whole industry sector. The Mayor of London’s decision to extend the Low Emissions Zone (LEZ) to make it tougher for heavier vehicles to drive within the Greater London area – including Heathrow – has effectively rendered Heathrow’s mission to become an equal to Paris CDG and Amsterdam (in terms of airfreight) impossible. The excessive charges associated with the LEZ combined with the eye-watering penalty fees has resulted in a number of European hauliers refusing to come to Heathrow. So, while the Mayor’s emissions target will benefit, this is at an unacceptably high price for the industry. For PML, this latest attempt to deal with emissions has made it untenable to extend our operations in Heathrow. Dealing with emissions we wholeheartedly agree with. But this needs to be implemented with clear proof of joined up thinking which can only be achieved if the industry is invited to collaborate with those making the decisions.

10 things you need to know about shipping fresh produce.

Shipping fresh produce is a fast-paced industry because of the effort required to make deliveries within a short timeframe. Perishables are time and temperature sensitive products that require careful handling and shipment processes to preserve their freshness.

This supply chain journeys from farmers to packaging and shipping companies, then to wholesalers or retailers, and finally to the end consumer. The supply chain can be surprisingly long if you don’t buy local, and the goods still need to be fresh, despite the lengthy shipping process.

Here’s PML’s top 10 tips for companies to consider when shipping fresh produce. 

  1. Safety of produce in transit. 

Although the concept of transporting produce looks simple on the face of it, there are many complications. Billions of pounds are lost due to food spoiling during the transportation process. Up to 33% of food can be lost or wasted and fresh produce can lose half of its shelf life in the shipping process.

Produce is sensitive freight due to individual shelf life timelines and the fragility of the items. When dealing with produce and other food items intended for consumption, there is no wiggle room when it comes to safety. Vehicles transporting food are required to adhere to strict standards, the goal being to prevent illness due to contaminated food. Vehicles must be clean and be able to be cleaned to prevent contamination plus produce must be kept at safe temperatures during transportation. 

2. The importance of produce temperature

Timing and temperature are the crucial factors when handling fresh produce because it deteriorates with time, depending on the temperature of storage.

Most refrigerated, chilled and fresh produce is stored and transported at temperatures between -1.5 and +14 degrees Celsius, varying on product type. However, transport can be trickier for perishables such as flowers, fruit and vegetables and some countries may not accept frozen goods that have been off refrigeration for more than a specified time, regardless of temperatures achieved. That can result in wasted time, effort and ultimately, the loss of the produce. In all these cases, failure to meet requirements means a total commercial failure unless the goods can be diverted to a different destination where they will be accepted.

3. Produce Shelf Life

Not all produce is the same when it comes to shipping. The industry deems sensitive produce, with a short shelf life of a day or two, as light density. Next, produce that lasts 4 to 6 days is medium density. The heartier produce crops, those with a long shelf life in excess of a week, rank in the high-density category.

The logistics company selected to transport produce needs to know from the shipper exactly what the freight includes to ensure correct handling and timings. 

Shippers are working against the clock to get produce to market so consumers can enjoy the goods at the peak of their freshness. The strict shelf life of produce is why shippers often prefer a dedicated trucking solution to ensure delivery. The longer it takes to get produce shipped after harvest, the higher the chances items will spoil before reaching the shelf.

4. Lifestyle trends

As shoppers select produce at their retailer, few are thinking about the industry and what it takes to ship fresh. 

Consumers adopting healthier lifestyles often choose fresh produce. The trend at the moment is that freshness translates to healthy and the niche market of organic and plant-based foods is growing fast.T he push to find healthier food has translated into more produce shipments needing to be available to stay in step with the increasing demand. 

5. Where the Produce Comes From

What fruit or vegetable crop is growing when and where is always a big question for those dealing with produce. The answer to that question determines what can ship when or how much stock is available. Shippers generally have a good handle on what crops are harvesting in which countries in order to keep supply moving into stores.

But for shippers, the bigger question to answer is how fast a crop of fresh produce can get from the field to market. There is often a very short window of time to make it happen. 

Seasonal demands factor into shipment capacity, especially if a crop schedule is off by a few days or weeks. In most cases, a dedicated shipper will have flexibility to get everything done in time. However, this is not a guarantee, so shippers should not take it for granted. Good communication between the shipper and trucking company is a good way to gauge what is possible when things change.

Another challenge in shipping fresh produce is the distance from the point of origin to the final destination. According to the Logistics Bureau, fresh produce averages about half its shelf life on a truck. Therefore, produce with a short shelf life only has around a day of freshness remaining once it reaches the market. If all things are perfect, this is not a lot of time for consumers to maximise the freshness. However, it drives the point home about the urgency needed when it comes to shipping fresh produce.

6. The Demand for Fresh Produce

So where do consumers purchase fresh produce? The answer to that question includes grocery stores, fresh markets, specialty markets and the growing trend of meal kit services. Shoppers are particular about where they purchase their fresh fruits and vegetables. While supermarkets take the top spot for produce sales, specialty retailers who emphasis organic goods are quickly gaining popularity.

It is a matter of preference when it comes to shopping for seasonal fruits and vegetables. While some consumers want to touch and feel the produce they select, others rely on fresh selections arriving on their doorstep.

Regardless of the venue, fresh produce arrives at each site on a regular basis to keep up with the growing demand. 

Traditional grocery stores typically display seasonal and locally grown produce prominently with additional bins stocked full of other produce staples. Likewise, the fresh produce sections at specialty markets are alive with the vibrant colours of the seasonal harvest. However, the two retailers may vary the quantity of produce on hand based on traffic. Shipping fresh produce to a large grocery store may involve several trucks making a delivery often within a week. In contrast, a smaller marketplace may schedule one delivery per week with limited amounts of certain items. In each case, the shipper is working closely with the stores to determine what produce is needed and how soon a truck can arrive to replenish the shelves.

The increase of meal kit delivery has also stretched the demand to ship fresh produce. The kits are popular with those who lack the time or desire to do the shopping but want to have a tasty meal. The kits include all the ingredients, right down to the fresh peppers, tomatoes or other items. Once picked, fresh produce needs to move quickly.

7. Multimodal transport

When transporting perishables, you have distinct choices between air, sea and road freight. Choice is often a matter of speed, cost and more importantly, the type of perishables you handle.

With fresh fish, the main logistics issues are in ensuring the expected journey times are consistent with product life and reducing time off from refrigeration. Problems are most likely to occur at export terminals and transit points, both for air and sea freight. For road transport, you need to factor in traffic congestion and customs delays.

Struggling with import and export issues? Get in touch with our team of experts for bespoke logistics advice:

Vegetables and fresh fruits pose many of the same problems as seafood and flowers. Refrigerated containers and prepackaging using ice and sometimes cold gas can extend shelf life, but the reality with many perishables is that presentation is also important to the end consumer. Excessive vibrations and gases can adversely affect these products in transit.

Proper planning and operating systems overcome these difficulties to some extent, but there is always a degree of uncertainty and producers should build in some margin for delays to the planning process. Think of the cold chain as a journey to be achieved, not just a destination.

8. Restaurant or Comsumer

Wholesale produce shippers fulfill daily orders for restaurants as well as general consumers.

Today, health-conscious diners are requesting more produce options on restaurant menus. The days of the kitchen just receiving a few boxes of tomatoes, carrots, lettuce or cucumbers for salads are gone. In order to guarantee the kitchen has enough produce available, chefs and restaurant owners are working to develop networks of locally sourced produce. 

9. Packaging and storing 

Next, transporters must select the best packaging for shipment. Fruits like apples, citrus, and pears that have hard skins are good for long travel because they are sturdy enough to handle it. Softer fruits like plums and peaches, on the other hand, have to be carefully packaged and handled carefully. When selecting packaging, transporters must also consider factors like how to protect produce from temperature changes.

Once the produce has been selected and packaged, it is ready to be loaded and shipped. Transporters must be conscious of what they are shipping; for example some fruits cannot be transported together. All fruits release a harmless gas called ethylene after being harvested, and each fruit releases the gas in different quantities. This gas causes certain fruits like tomatoes and peppers to ripen and spoil faster, so they must be kept separate from fruits that release the gas in large quantities.

Transporters must also consider where the cargo is going. Most countries restrict the transport of products across borders to prevent the spread of bacteria and plants that could damage their local ecosystems and thus have different rules and regulations for deliveries

10. Impact damages

Another common reason food is wasted before reaching the consumer is impact damages. Consumers do not want to purchase bruised or damaged produce, so if it gets damaged in the shipping process, it will never make it to the store.

Shocks and vibrations that occur during shipping can seriously damage the produce, and this is a big risk if the items are not packaged and loaded properly. In fact, if a transporter is over-burdened with produce to ship, they may load an excessive amount of pallets in one vehicle to cut costs, often resulting in damaged goods.

While the logistics of fresh produce are challenging and complex, monitoring each step of the process can ensure that the produce makes it to the end consumer safely and intact. Technology like data logging, and the cold chain process, make this possible and allow us to have the fruits and vegetables we enjoy on a daily basis.

The Cost of Brexit on Fine Wine shipping

Despite the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the transportation of wine to and from mainland Europe and the UK was pretty much a straightforward process in 2020. It required a minimum level of regulatory checks and procedures; haulage firms benefited from the EMCS system, an EU customs database that simplified the shipping process for them.

However, come 1st January 2021 and the changes to the UK/EU trade regulations, this straightforward process has been turned on its head. Philip Cox, owner of Romanian winery Cramele Recas, describes the new regulations as “nightmarish” and “potentially unworkable” for small wineries and UK businesses.

“It is fair to say that the new logistics framework has been a challenge for the industry. Even before Brexit, transporting wine was admin heavy. We required roughly 200 pages of documents to move an average shipment between the UK and EU,” explains Ashley Hopkins, Liv-ex director of operations. Adding “Since 1st January 2021 that admin has multiplied. The original 200 pages are still required, but now a similar sized export will require additional documents such as import declarations etc, resulting in around 800 pages.” 

“It’s not just the paperwork that’s the problem. In order to produce these documents you need certain wine expertise, and you also need to include additional parties such as freight forwarders, all of which adds time and costs to the supply chain.” adds Hopkins.

European wine producers, importers and exporters and major transport firms are all attempting to get their head around this new process. The transportation of goods to and from the UK has become much more time consuming, expensive and difficult. A good example of this is from 1st  January 2021, producers have been forced to ship goods in fumigated and treated stamped wooden pallets, which before 1st January 2021 wasn’t a legal requirement. 

In addition, logistics firms must now use ‘Economic Operators Registration and Identification (EORI) Numbers’. EORI numbers are issued by customs to identify traders throughout the EU and are now an essential legal requirement for UK import and exports. Also, under new VAT rules, the tax is now paid in full at the port of entry to the UK before the goods are released. This is a potential issue for smaller businesses.

“The new post-Brexit trading framework has impacted iDealwine in areas that they didn’t see coming. The additional paperwork was expected, but negotiating new rates and new shipping partners were not,” says Alix Rodarie, head of international development at iDealwine.

“New laws and even seeking advice from legal experts was expected, but legal experts unable to clarify or interpret a number of issues relating to importing wine to the UK was not. Customs declarations and duties payable were expected, but the complexity and number of charges for delivering were not.” Rodarie explains that the firm has been forced to build new logistical and legal relationships again from scratch, and then communicate these changes to their existing clients.

“As I’ve said before, it is now easier for me to sell to Japan than the UK,” adds Philip Cox. “Apart from the expense and time wasting inherent to carrying out a full customs declaration, I now have to include an importer’s label on every bottle, detailing their address, etc. I exported 4 million bottles to the UK in 2019 across 12 different brands. So I would have to produce 12 different versions of the label for each wine. Unfortunately, I’ve ceased exporting to my smaller customers. The new administration costs mean that shipping small volumes is not worth my while. The real victim has been the British consumer.”

With supply chain overheads increasing, producers and importers alike must now weigh up how much of this strain can be willingly shared between the key parties, or if UK consumers should be forced to shoulder the burden of the rising prices.

Some experts are optimistic that the end consumer will not suffer unduly. But equally, there is an opinion across the board that smaller brands may now find exporting prohibitively expensive, leading to fewer niche labels on our shelves.

“Our shipping charges have been altered. We used to be charged per case, which meant that we could ship tiny parcels from some growers. We are now charged per pallet and have a sliding economy of scale – this puts our smallest suppliers at a real disadvantage,” says Siobhán Astbury, buying director at Haynes Hanson & Clark.

“There are certainly some wines that have had to go up by a few pounds per case, but for the moment nothing extreme. We’re getting a slightly better exchange rate now than we were at the end of last year, which also helps cancel things out. But it’s still very early days.”

As with Covid-19, uncertainty surrounds the transition into new trading relationships. At the moment, UK customs are overlooking certain checks on goods to ease companies through the transition period. However, when this gentle approach finishes, its forecast that companies should expect long and costly delays at UK customs and excise. 

Both European and UK businesses are also arguing against the introduction of wine import certificates. This new piece of legislation was written into the Brexit deal to replace the VI-1 forms, which the EU currently use to regulate the import of non-European wines.

“As an industry we are used to VI-1 forms for wines originating outside of Europe and this will remain business as usual (albeit a UK version). One of the sections on the new import certificate form requires a customs stamp, which is likely to add an additional 200 pages and 200 stamps – it’s all getting a bit daft,” says Ashley Hopkins, Liv-ex director of operations. In late March, the government delayed the introduction of the wine import certificates until 1st January 2022. Nevertheless, WSTA chief executive Miles Beale, who has been heavily involved in lobbying the government to remove the regulation from UK law has stated that the threat of an eventual implementation of the forms is still “very real.” It remains to be seen whether they will listen to the argument against this extra step or not.

European ports preparing for the after effects of Suez crisis

In the weeks to come supply chains are preparing for the knock on effects of the Suez Canal blockage with expectations of congestion, delays and increased costs. 

The Institute of Export and International Trade has raised concerns over import surges that are expected to hit European ports following the removal of the Ever Given ship that has been blocking the Suez Canal.

The wedged ship Ever Given was finally freed on 29th March, leaving a trail of around 100 container ships waiting to enter the canal. Although some of those cargo ships would have been empty or headed to other destinations, roughly 52% of the canal capacity each week heads to Europe according to the Institute of Export and International Trade. 

Eleanor Hadland, senior ports analyst at maritime research consultancy Drewry has stated “From our perspective, it is going to be more chaos and more congestion.” The situation is badly affecting the US west coast where a lack of capacity means ships have to anchor for up to two weeks before unloading and In Europe, carriers are being given the option of diverting course to smaller, less busy terminals, Hadland said. 

The International Federation of Freight Forwarders Associations have said that the disruption of the supply chain was expected to “worsen dramatically” over the next coming weeks. They have also stated that this would create “high delays in shipments, increased costs and product shortages.”

Freight and logistics publication Loadstar has reported that currently air freight is currently operating at full capacity, predicting that it will take approximately two weeks for the impact of the crisis to begin to “unravel”. 

“Capacity is already an issue with greater use of air for test kits and vaccines”, said Ekaterina Andreeva, commercial director for Russian air cargo carrier Volga-Dnepr. “We can predict a busy market for a couple of months, but maybe it will lessen over the summer. Rates though could be elevated until the end of the year,” she said.

As the world looks to the cost of the Ever Given blockage, John Neal the CEO of Lloyd’s of London told the Evening Standard that potential losses to the market from the blockage of the Suez Canal would be in the “hundreds of millions” but said that the claims were easier to deal with than they are having to with Covid, which up to this point has cost Lloyd’s £6.2 billion in payouts. 

“It is the very type of loss we are used to,” John Neal said. “It will be quite a big marine claim, but not particularly out of the ordinary.”