CIPS survey finds nearly two-thirds of supply chain managers reporting delays of up to three days, longer than in January.
Delays at the UK-EU border are getting worse, new research indicates, as Brexit paperwork continues to snarl up supply chains.
A survey of 350 UK supply chain managers by the Chartered Institute of Procurement & Supply (CIPS) found over half (58 per cent) saying that delays have become longer since the beginning of January 2021, with 30 per cent reporting that delays are significantly longer than they were when the new border rules first came into effect.
As many as 63 per cent of those surveyed have experienced delays of at least two to three days in getting goods into the UK, up from 38 per cent in a similar survey in January. The situation is only slightly better for exports, with 44 per cent experiencing delays of at least two to three days getting goods into the EU.
By far the main reason for the holdups is the time it takes for customs to work through the new paperwork, with nearly half of businesses (47 per cent) citing this as the chief cause. Other customs issues such as a lack of capacity among customs staff and drivers being turned away for having the wrong paperwork were also cited by respondents.
Only nine per cent of people said new Covid-19 protocols were causing holdups at the border.
The delays come despite the fact many new import certifications are still yet to come into force. The extra checks, which will impact a wide range of goods, are due to be phased in from April.
Dr John Glen, CIPS economist and visiting fellow at the Cranfield School of Management, said: “We are well into the second month of the new arrangements and the hope that delays at the border would reduce as freight volumes returned to normal and customs systems became used to the new processes has not come to pass.
“What is even more concerning is that the delays are continuing to get longer, putting more and more pressure on the UK’s supply chains and affecting the timely delivery of much-needed goods.
“The paperwork required at the border is not going to change any time soon, so we should brace ourselves for these delays to continue for at least the next few months. New requirements for import certifications are also rapidly approaching and these will only add to the paperwork required, causing further delays for businesses.
“The knock-on impact of these delays will trickle far down the supply chain and ultimately result in stock shortages and inflated prices for consumers”.
Guidance on the health and identification marks that must be applied to products of animal origin (POAO), such as meat, egg products, fish, cheese and milk.
The following guidance is for enforcement authorities and UK food businesses that produce POAO in the UK (Great Britain and Northern Ireland). It outlines the health and identification mark requirements that will allow POAO produced by UK businesses to be placed on Great Britain, Northern Ireland, EU and non-EU markets from 1 January 2021.
What are health and identification marks?
The health mark is applied directly to POAO, typically meat carcases, by the Competent Authority (CA) or under its supervision, and shows the product is fit for human consumption.
In England, Wales and Northern Ireland, the Food Standards Agency (FSA) is the CA. Food Standards Scotland (FSS) has similar responsibility in Scotland.
The identification mark is applied to POAO by food businesses to show it has been produced in an establishment approved in accordance with food safety and hygiene regulations, and is typically applied to wrapping, packaging, or labelling which contains, or is attached to, the POAO.
Further down this page you can find:
A description of the new health and identification marks, depending on whether the food business is based in Northern Ireland or Great Britain. The UK Government recommends use of the full country code ‘United Kingdom’ where it is practical
Information setting out the requirements for different markets
Products placed on the market before the end of the Transition Period (11pm GMT on 31 December 2020)
‘Placing on the market’, as defined in Article 3(8) of Regulation (EC) 178/2002, means the holding of food or feed for the purpose of sale, including offering for sale or any other form of transfer, whether free of charge or not, and the sale, distribution, and other forms of transfer themselves.
If your UK business placed POAO on a market before the end of the Transition Period, it will be allowed to reach its end user in the specific market upon which it was placed with the existing health and identification marks.
POAO that were placed on the market in Great Britain before the end of the Transition Period can reach their end-user on the Great Britain market, including circulation within Great Britain, without the need for re-labelling.
POAO that were placed on the market in the EU before the end of Transition Period can reach the end-user on the EU market without the need for re-labelling.
POAO that were placed on the market in Northern Ireland before the end of Transition Period, can reach the end-user on either the UK or EU markets without the need for re-labelling.
POAO moved into the EU and Northern Ireland markets from Great Britain after the end of the Transition Period will require re-labelling to meet the requirements.
POAO that have been placed on the market in UK before the end of Transition Period can reach the end-user on non-EU markets without the need for re-labelling.
Rewrapping or repacking of POAO
Any rewrapping or repacking of POAO must be carried out by an establishment, approved to carry out the required activity. If carried out by an establishment separate to the original manufacturer, the appropriate identification mark must be applied with the establishment’s approval number. This is to maintain traceability and ensure food safety is not compromised.
Where product destined for the EU or NI market has left the manufacturing food business and is in a cold store or other storage facilities in Great Britain which is not approved for rewrapping or repackaging, it is important that the product is moved to an establishment which is approved to carry out any rewrapping or repacking activities specifically for that POAO, or returned to the manufacturing food business.
Where over-labelling is appropriate, the food business will need to be satisfied that any over-labelling is secure and does not obscure any other mandatory labelling information. Failure to meet these requirements may result in rejection by enforcement authorities in the country of destination.
Information on the use of existing stock with the ‘UK/EC’ identification mark
On the Great Britain market
Legislation in England, Wales and Scotland provides for a 21-month period of adjustment for goods placed on the market in Great Britain to reduce the impact of the change in requirements for identification marks.
This will allow UK businesses to deplete existing stocks of labels, wrapping and packaging carrying the ‘UK/EC’ identification mark owned by the food business operator at the end of the Transition Period.
The provision is available to UK food businesses for POAO placed on the market in Great Britain. It is not applicable to POAO produced in the UK for placing on the EU, Northern Ireland or non-EU markets.
It is not intended to enable businesses to replenish stocks of labels, wrapping and packaging carrying the ‘UK/EC’ identification mark after the end of the Transition Period. Businesses are encouraged to adopt the new markings as soon as possible once the Transition Period ends.
The provision started from 1 January 2021 and is available for food businesses up to 30 September 2022. After this date, the use of stocks of labels, wrapping and packaging with the ‘UK/EC’ identification mark will be unlawful.
On the Northern Ireland market
Under the Northern Ireland Protocol, goods sold in Northern Ireland will continue to follow EU rules for food labelling. There are changes to labelling that apply from 1 January 2021.
However, the UK Government recognises that businesses will need time to adapt to these new labelling rules.
The UK Government is working with the Department of Agriculture, the Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) and district councils in Northern Ireland on an enforcement approach of new labelling requirements on the Northern Ireland market that takes these challenges into account.
In line with previous rule changes for labelling, there will be a proportionate and risk-based enforcement approach for identification marks. This approach will be implemented in a way which supports businesses as they adapt to the requirements over time.
Moving products of animal origin from Great Britain to Northern Ireland
The agreement reached in the Withdrawal Agreement Joint Committee on the implementation of the Northern Ireland Protocol set out that there will be a:
Three-month grace period for authorised traders moving products of animal origin, composite products, food and feed of non-animal origin and plant and plant products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland;
Six-month arrangement has been put in place to enable the continued movement of certain meat products from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
The FSA consider that because full traceability is being maintained, there is no risk to public health as a result of POAO bearing the UK/EC identification marks. Therefore, our advice to relevant enforcement authorities is that the same proportionate and risk-based enforcement approach for identification marks should be implemented in a way which supports businesses as they adapt to the requirements over time. This is also in line with the DAERA Compliance Protocol published for SPS controls.
DAERA Compliance Protocol
The Department of Agriculture Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) have published:
The compliance protocol sets out that commodities not within scope of the two grace periods (i.e. the authorised trader scheme and arrangements concerning prohibitions and restrictions for some meat products) will be expected to comply with EU rules from 1 January 2021 when moving POAO from Great Britain to Northern Ireland.
UK (both Great Britain and Northern Ireland) products on the market at 11:01pm GMT on 31 December 2020 and destined for non-EU countries
The Defra Chief Veterinary Officer has written to the Competent Authorities of non-EU countries to explain changes to health and identification marks.
The annex to the Chief Veterinary Officer letter (issued December 2020) is reproduced below for information only
A: UK exports of food products of animal origin (POAO) to non-EU Countries: UK identification and health marks
Following the Transition Period (ending 31 December 2020), the form of the health and identification marks applied to products of animal origin (POAO) produced in the UK will change.
1. Existing health and identification marks
The health and identification marks for POAO for export from the UK to non-EU countries are currently in this format:
Health and identification marks applied before the 31 December 2020
2. Future health and identification marks
Health and identification marks applied after the Transition Period will be presented in the following formats:
Health marks applied after the 31 December 2020
Identification marks applied after the 31 December 2020
3. Key changes
For POAO produced in Great Britain (England, Scotland and Wales):
the ‘EC’ suffix will be removed from health and identification marks
the marks will carry the full country name ‘United Kingdom’ or an abbreviated code ‘GB’ or ‘UK’.
For POAO produced in Northern Ireland:
the health and identification marks will continue to display the ‘EC ‘suffix
the marks will carry the full country name ‘United Kingdom (Northern Ireland)’ or an abbreviated code, ‘UK(NI)’
In all cases, the approval number of the establishment, which provides the traceability required, will remain unchanged.
4. Exemption for eggs for human consumption and hatching eggs
Eggs in shell for human consumption and hatching eggs produced in the UK do not need to carry the UK identification/health mark outlined above and will continue to be marked in the same way as they are now. However, in some cases, such exported eggs may carry an additional ISO code (GB, GBR or 826) either instead of, or in addition to, the current marking. This may be because such eggs have been batch marked before the exact export destination is decided. Similarly, hatching eggs may also carry the word ‘hatching’.
In all cases, eggs in shell for human consumption and hatching eggs produced in the UK will guarantee the same high standards and quality following the Transition Period.
5. Period of transition for goods on the market
You may continue to receive products carrying the ‘UK/EC’ health and identification marks (see point 1 above) for a significant period of time. These marks continue to be valid marks, and relate to products produced in the UK before the end of the Transition Period. As the supply chain depletes itself of old stocks which bear these health and identification marks, you will see a gradual change to the new health and identification marks (see point 2 above).
All consignments and products certified using any form of the health and identification mark in the United Kingdom, with or without the ‘EC’ suffix, continues to be a guarantee of our continuing high standards and quality delivering official controls.
Examples of the health and identification marks that apply from 1 January 2021
FSA approved businesses in Great Britain
FSA approved businesses in Northern Ireland
Local authority approved businesses in Great Britain
District Councils in Northern Ireland
Size and dimension of the marks that apply from 1 January 2021
The health mark must be a legible and indelible oval mark at least 6.5cm wide by 4.5cm high. It must contain either the full country name ‘UNITED KINGDOM’ in capitals or the ‘GB’ or ‘UK’ abbreviation for POAO produced in England, Scotland and Wales, followed by the approval number of the establishment. The UK Government recommends use of the full country code ‘UNITED KINGDOM’ where it is practical.
For POAO produced in Northern Ireland the health mark must contain either the full country name ‘UNITED KINGDOM (NORTHERN IRELAND)’ in capitals or ‘UK(NI)’ abbreviation, followed by the approval number of the establishment. It must also contain the letters ‘EC’ below the approval number.
Letters must be at least 0.8cm high and figures at least 1 cm high. The ink used for the health mark must be authorised in accordance with food law which governs the use of colouring substances in food.
The dimensions and characters of the health mark may be reduced for health marking of lamb, kids, and piglets.
There is no minimum or maximum size for the identification mark. However, it must be legible and indelible oval mark, and the characters easily decipherable.
The identification mark must contain either the full country name ‘United Kingdom’ or the ‘GB’ or ‘UK’ abbreviation for POAO produced in England, Scotland and Wales. The UK Government recommends use of the full country code ‘United Kingdom’ where it is practical.
For POAO produced in Northern Ireland, the new identification mark must contain either the full country name ‘United Kingdom (Northern Ireland)’ or the ‘UK(NI)’ abbreviation followed by the approval number of the establishment. It must also contain the letters ‘EC’ after the approval number.
Get in touch for more expert guidance and advice relating to post-Brexit imports and exports.
Although it’s happened Brexit is still very much an ongoing headache for the perishables and food industry. The real reverberations from the UK’s exit from Europe are only just starting to be realised.
It’s been a long and fraught journey to Brexit, with most of the population hoping that they would never have to hear another Brexit debate or argument after the 31st December. However, those hopes are dashed because although the laborious and painstaking EU negotiations are more or less concluded, the real work, dealing with the effects of leaving Europe, is only just starting.
The food sector can’t just ‘action’ Brexit, it’s a delicate balance to ensure that supply chains remain unaffected and relationships with European suppliers are kept on good terms. For speciality products such as regional cheese and niche products, dealings with Europe need to be more than amicable, they need to be highly functioning and as strong as the stinkiest cheese.
Having put our Perishable Movements Limited thinking caps on, we’ve come up with 5 key points that the food and drink sector should remember when dealing with Brexit issues.
1. Getting goods into the UK from Europe The dawning of Brexit meant that the old rule book for importing goods was thrown out of the window. Post December 31st businesses must have an EORI number starting with a GB to import goods into England, Wales and Scotland. If you’re importing into Northern Ireland, make sure you have an EORI number that begins with XI.
It’s also time to fill out those customs declarations. To find out the rate of duty your business will need to pay and whether you’ll need an import licence you will need to check the commodity code. Next on your import checklist will be to ensure you’re compliant with the marking, labelling and marketing standards.
You can follow the official UK government’s guidelines for importing goods into the UK from Europe here.
2. Getting goods out of the UK to Europe The new trade deal set out no quotas on trade between the UK and the EU, if goods meet the relevant rules of origin . Check this link and if relevant, you’ll need an EORI number prefixed with either GB or XI plus a commodity code.
Be aware that there is an added admin burden on companies at the moment and this is causing delays in exports. This is because products deriving from animals such as meat, fish and dairy must have vet-approved export health certificates. Manufactured foods that contain animal products are currently exempt, however this will change in April. Unfortunately, there is still a huge amount of uncertainty about what this will mean for the perishable goods and food business.
Click here for the government’s official guide to exporting from the UK.
3.Moving goods into Northern Ireland
One of the key issues thrashed out during the Brexit trade deal was that there would be no hard border between Ireland and Northern Ireland. The agreed trade deal sets out a regulatory border between Britain and Northern Ireland, because Northern Ireland continues to follow some EU rules.
Again added supply chain delays can occur at this point because food products are being checked when moving from the mainland UK to Northern Ireland. Following staff safety concerns and tensions with the new rules, these protocols were suspended on 2nd February. Supermarkets have been given a three-month period of grace which leaves questions hanging over the future of the protocol. As soon as we know more, we’ll update our clients.
For more information about getting goods into Northern Ireland click here.
4. New rules of origin
Some more red tape reveals itself in regard to revised rules of origin. If your business is exporting or importing food or drink to Europe, you’ll need to prove to HMRC that you can claim preference for goods. you are importing or give the person receiving the goods evidence of the origin so they can claim preference.
There’s lots of confusion about this specific part of Brexit trade agreement. You’ve got to make sure your business is following the rules correctly and have the correct proofs in place. Although a free trade agreement is in place with the EU, this doesn’t mean that goods coming into the UK have no import duties or tariffs.
If you need help, feel free to reach out to the PML team. We’re happy to share our experience and knowledge of Brexit compliance:
5. Don’t forget your IDs!
For the team at PML, this last point is our bread and butter. All importers, hauliers and supply staff moving between the EU and the UK must ensure their passport is valid for at least six months. It’s also important to ensure that any employees travelling to Europe have new Global Health Insurance Card which replaces the European Health Insurance Cards (the EHIC cards will be valid until their expiry date). Double check whether your employees need visas or work permits here.
The Civil Aviation Authority has tough rules on security; that’s why Perishable Movements Limited has its very own industrial metal detector.
PML is always looking to streamline its business and improve its security measures.
Robert Haynes, Business Development Manager at PML discusses the benefits and features of their state-of-the-art warehouse metal detection scanner, which is fully automated, photographs and records every piece of cargo that passes through it.
Ocean freight, also called sea freight, is the movement of goods internationally by sea. Ocean freight is far and away the most popular option for shipping goods internationally.
Roughly 90% of goods are transported around the world by sea. But while it’s popular, that doesn’t mean it is the only option or the best one for that matter.
Whether you are just starting or are a veteran in international shipping, most business owners find that they need to review their shipping options from time to time.
If you’re currently at that point where you need to ask “Does ocean freight make sense for me?”, we’re here to help.
What is ocean freight?
Ocean freight is the method of transporting goods through the sea. It is an important part of cross-border trade that lets people move massive amounts of goods between countries.
The goods are typically transported on ships through the open ocean. There are many kinds of shipping options available for different kinds of goods. One of the most popular is container shipping, technically named containerization. With this option, goods are shipped using containers with standard sizes of 20 to 40 feet.
Apart from ocean freight, there are other international freight transport modes, which include courier, express air freight, and standard air freight. All of these transport modes involve shipping by air and are therefore much faster than ocean freight. They typically take between 1 to 2 weeks. But they are also far more expensive than ocean freight and can only take smaller shipments.
Air freight vs ocean freight: how to choose
While ocean freight certainly is not cheap when shipping small quantities, it scales really well. For larger shipments, it produces a better overall cost. This is why it has become such an important part of international trade. Despite this, ocean freight is much slower, as the typical time for the arrival of most shipments is between 40 to 60 days.
Types of ocean freight services
As mentioned earlier, container shipping is one of the most popular options for ocean freight. This is largely due to its relative safety and ease of handling. Containers can be moved very easily without disturbing the goods being shipped. However, they are only a good option for certain kinds of goods, such as dry or already packaged goods.
When it comes to container shipping, there are essentially two types of shipping services that are available – LCL or FCL. LCL means less than container load, while FCL means full container load.
FCL shipments basically involve shipping your goods via one or more containers that you use exclusively. Only your goods will be in the container, ensuring that your shipment will be undisturbed until you open the container by yourself. This option makes the most sense when you have goods that can fill a container or that nearly fill it up.
With LCL shipments, the goods intended to be shipped are usually less than it takes to fill a container. So, instead of having a container all to yourself, which can be relatively expensive, you can split the cost and share the container with goods belonging to other people. But the downside to this option is that your goods may be more vulnerable to mishandling or damage during the voyage.
How to ship using ocean freight
Ocean freight relies heavily on the services of third parties called freight forwarders. Freight forwarders usually mean a third-party individual or company who pick up your goods, properly arrange them to be loaded and onboard for shipping, and eventually correctly delivered to the final destination. This is because it is usually necessary to have trusted eyes and hands that can help collect your goods from the seller, arrange shipping and place your goods aboard the ship.
The shipping contract is also an important part of the process you should know about. There are standard international shipping terms that govern ocean freight contracts. These are called “Incoterms”, short for international commercial terms. It defines how far along the process will the seller be held responsible for the goods, and at what point will the buyer takes over the liability for the shipment.
The most popular incoterms are:
FOB (Free on Board): Under the FOB agreement, buyers and sellers share the responsibility of the delivery process. Seller takes obligations to make sure the goods are packaged, labeled appropriately, and loaded correctly ready for shipping. Once the goods have been loaded onboard, the obligations transfer to the buyer. EXW (Ex Works): An EXW contract places the majority of responsibility on the buyer. The buyer picks up goods at the manufacturer’s and is responsible for the transit of the goods to their final destination.
DDP (Delivered Duty Paid): With DDP, the seller takes the maximum obligations and buyers take minimum obligations. The terms dictate that the seller will be responsible for the costs of shipping, insuring the goods and inland transportation. There’s obviously a lot to learn about how these Incoterms work and which makes the most sense for you.
After deciding your shipping terms, the process of concluding the ocean freight will involve the following stages:
Export haulage: This is the start of the shipping journey. At this stage, your goods will be transported from the seller’s warehouse to your freight forwarder’s warehouse. Export customs clearance: Most countries require goods that are meant for export to first go through clearance. Clearance will include providing a detailed declaration of the cargo, along with supporting documentation.
Origin handling: This stage covers all the activities that will be necessary to prepare your goods for shipping. The cargo will be put in a staging area for inspection and confirmation. Once confirmed, the freight forwarder will issue a cargo receipt confirming that they have received the goods as described. If the shipment is FCL, the goods will be stacked in their container. If LCL, they will be placed in the warehouse to await consolidation with other goods in a container headed for the same destination port. Finally, the container will be trucked to the port of departure to await loading on the ship.
Ocean freight: This is the actual transportation of the goods across the ocean. The stages up to this point may take days or weeks, depending on several factors. Ocean freight itself will likely take anywhere from 20-60 days, depending on where the goods are headed.
Import customs clearance: Once the goods arrive at their destination port, they will await import clearance. It also involves completing the necessary forms, declaring the cargo and paying the necessary fees.
Destination handling: This stage covers all the activities necessary to confirm the goods, check the documents including the bill of lading and transporting the container to the freight forwarder’s warehouse. Here, the goods will be opened, checked and then sorted for import haulage.
Import haulage: This is the final stage of the process. At this stage, the goods will be transported inland by train or truck to the final destination determined by you. The freight forwarder can be charged with handling every stage of the process. Or you may decide to make alternative arrangements for certain stages to save costs.
How are ocean freight rates calculated?
Ocean freight rates are usually determined based on a number of charges, such as the cost per weight of goods and the space they take up. For instance, ocean freight typically costs around 50 cents per kilogram (kg)2.
Other charges that may be included in the freight rate include:
Insurance Customs security surcharge Container freight station (this applies to LCL consolidation only) Pickup and delivery at ports and warehouses Routing charges Customs brokerage Fuel surcharge
Ocean freight charges are not static. Depending on a number of factors, the price may go significantly higher, or may fall even lower. Some of these factors include:
Fuel costs: Fuel is critical to shipping goods via sea freight, and the prices can sometimes be volatile. When prices rise, you can expect rates to rise as well. Exchange rates: Slight fluctuations in exchange rates can result into a severe loss for shipping lines, especially considering how long a single trip can take. Supply and demand: Festive holidays often mean people work less, and this also affects the shipping industry. As a result, just before festive holidays like Chinese New Year, there is usually a spike in demand that can drive freight rates up. Size of shipment: Obviously, larger-sized shipments will include a lot more work and will cost significantly more.
Type of vessel required: Containerised shipping is quick, easy and effective, which makes it relatively cheap. Other vessels, such as tankers for liquid cargo, or bulk carriers for unpackaged dry goods may cost more. ocean freight charges
What are the pros and cons of ocean freight?
As you have learned already, ocean freight may be popular, but it has both its high points and low points. Some of the advantages you can expect from ocean freight include:
Higher shipping capacity: Sea freight is perfect for bulky shipments. Other shipping options are only viable for lighter products that are not being shipped in bulk. Cheaper costs: Overall, ocean freight is much cheaper than other options, costing just 50 cents per kg. Compare this to standard air freight which costs roughly $4 per kg and express air freight, which costs $6 per kg.
Fewer restrictions: Shipping by air freight is subject to several restrictions relating to the type of goods you can ship. For instance, you cannot ship flammable products like perfumes or biochemical products like some medicines on air freight. There are fewer restrictions for shipping by sea.
Lower carbon footprint: Ocean freight produces relatively lower emissions than air freight. New regulations introduced by the International Maritime Organisation will reduce these emissions even further.
Despite the positives, here are some negatives to keep in mind：
Longer shipping time: Ocean freight is so much slower than air freight, which is usually five to six times faster. Taking the example of the freight between the US and China, shipment by sea will take about 30-40 days, whereas shipment by air only takes about a week, and express air may only take 3 days.
Unpredictable shipping: Ocean freight is more vulnerable to external shocks like bad weather, customs delays and port congestion. This can easily add days or weeks to your delivery.
Less protection: Since they are in transit for much longer, goods shipped by ocean freight are more susceptible to damage.
Less reliable: Due to the many moving parts involved in ocean freight, goods are at a greater risk of being mishandled or misplaced.
When does it make sense to choose ocean freight?
You should consider going with ocean freight if you are shipping large or bulky goods, or when it is vital to reduce your shipping costs to save money. Ocean freight also works very well when you have a high volume of orders within the same period.
But if you are deciding to go with ocean freight, you should generally leave more than enough time for the goods to arrive. If you do not have flexible delivery dates, then you may be better off looking elsewhere. The complexity of the process and the potential for delays may put you in a less than ideal situation otherwise.
Overall, ocean freight represents a great option for international shipping, but only in the right circumstances. It can be a relatively cheap option, but this is often offset by the ambiguity in the process.
It is moment that those involved with the Oxford-AstraZeneca trial have been poised for since publishing their efficacy data in late November. The wait has proved costly as Covid cases have spiralled out of control.
“It’s going to be really close [on whether we can get ahead of it],” says Sir John Bell, who sits on the UK’s vaccine taskforce. “I’m worried about the case numbers, they’re really shooting up every day.”
When the data from the trial was published, there were 15,000 daily reported Covid cases in Britain. By Wednesday, there were more than 50,000. “The new strain is very infectious, and there’s a South African strain that, I think, is even more infectious,” Sir John says.
“We just have to skate really fast to see if we can stay ahead of it. The most important thing is to put a lid on this expansion of the disease and the only real way to do that is going to be with vaccines.”
Alone, this may have proved a tall ask for Pfizer. But, together with AstraZeneca’s vaccine, there may be a real chance.
Even before the London-listed company received data from the trial showing the vaccine worked, doses were being pumped out. Initially, this was in Germany and the Netherlands, where production capacity was able to get up to pace much quicker.
Now, a supply chain has also been set up across the UK, a mesh of organisations which sees AstraZeneca preparing small groups of cells to then be sent out to grow at manufacturing partners including Oxford Biomedica, and later sent on to warehouses to be finished by combining with other liquids. In the UK, this final stage is being done by an Indian company called Wockhardt at its North Wales plant for £50m.
Things could have been smoother. Britain’s national vaccine manufacturing facility, for example, was fast-tracked last year, but is still not expected to come online until the middle of 2021. In the meantime, Oxford Biomedica helped establish a “virtual vaccine manufacturing and innovation centre”, the equipment from the planned Harwell, Oxford site being instead deployed at Biomedica’s OxBox facilities.
The output appears, at first glance, disappointing. According to soures, around a million doses will be available from tomorrow, out of a total UK order of 100 million doses – significantly below the 30 million doses AstraZeneca had in spring said it would have ready for use in the UK by September. A major hold-up is the stringent safety checks on the doses demanded by the regulator the MHRA. An estimated four million doses of the vaccine are ready for deployment and a further 15 million are waiting to be put in vials, but are being delayed by the review.
Still, the doses which are ready to go will be spread further. The Government last week changed tack and decided against holding back second doses for those receiving first doses.
It was a decision that Sir John says took much deliberation. With the Government fielding advice from consultants such as PA Consulting, Boston Consulting Group, Deloitte, and Baringa Partners, it ultimately decided such a route was needed to bring down the surging Covid-19 cases – in turn setting a ticking clock for those receiving first doses to then receive the next within 12 weeks.
“This idea of three months [between doses] is because the trial got data at three months, but that is not to say that it won’t work after four months, if you had to do that [and have a larger gap between doses],” Sir John says.
AstraZeneca appears confident it will not need that extra time. Boss Pascal Soriot last week tabled ambitions to get to “one million a week and beyond that very rapidly”.
“We can go to two million. In January we will already possibly be vaccinating several million people and by the end of the first quarter we are going to be in the tens of millions.”
Rolling out the Oxford vaccine as well as the Pfizer vaccine means Britain should be able to “do two million vaccinations a week”, says Sir John, although in his view, “to be honest, it needs to be more than that”.
“At two million a week, that only gets us to eight million by the end of the month, and that doesn’t seem to be the right number to me. They’ve got to push really hard in January.”
Companies can push as hard as they like, but a logjam in the supply chain is not the only thing that stands in the way of a huge uptick in vaccine distribution across the UK. Concerns are also rife about how to get those vaccines to people.
Last week, GPs issued a warning that a “larger workforce” was needed to help facilitate an immunisation drive after it emerged that a proposed volunteer army, including military personnel, firefighters and airline staff, had not yet materialised.
Among healthcare professionals, some issues have already become apparent whilst distributing the Pfizer vaccine, namely knowing when it will be delivered. Some are, however, hopeful that with the Astra vaccine, the system of matching vaccines to people will be slightly less arduous given it does not need to be stored at such low temperatures and so can go directly to more locations.
“It could be much more straight-forward,” says Azeem Majeed, a professor of Primary Care at Imperial College, London. Rather than being managed by clusters of GP surgeries, known as primary care networks, the “Government could switch to a system delivered to GPs directly and then be added to a patient’s record”.
In fact, those close to the process are keen to stress this is an issue they are not too concerned about. “GPs do a pretty good job on the flu vaccine every year,” says Sir John. “They get something like 30 million doses of flu vaccine out the door in October, November and early December. And there, they weren’t doing anything special, they were just doing what they always do.”
In his view, this is a hurdle that can easily be overcome. After all, this week saw researchers take a “very big step down the road of universal immunisation against the disease”. “I’d say we’re in a good place – a really good place.”
Supermarkets have urged people not to stockpile food and lavatory rolls in response to fears that a no-deal Brexit would interrupt supplies.
The British Retail Consortium (BRC) said shops had been working to prevent shortages being caused by disruptions to cross-border trade. However, it said there could be an impact on supplies of some fresh fruit and vegetables because the UK relies heavily on imports from the EU in winter.
Helen Dickinson, BRC chief executive, said: “Retailers are doing everything they can to prepare for all eventualities on January 1 — increasing the stock of tins, toilet rolls and other longer-life products so there will be sufficient supply.
“While no amount of preparation by retailers can entirely prevent disruption there is no need for the public to buy more food than usual as the main impact will be on imported fresh produce, such as fresh fruit and vegetables, which cannot be stored for long periods by either retailers or consumers.”
Other industries have spent years making plans to cope with a no-deal Brexit scenario. Perishable Movements Limited is one of the UK’s few fresh produce importers to have implemented their Brexit-ready plans to ensure their customers continue with little disruption to their supply chain. Measures include a purpose built temperature controlled facility in Spalding, complete with its own Border Control Post and regular chartered flights from East Africa to their facility at Heathrow.
Over the weekend, many media outlets reported on the number of people stockpiling goods ahead of a no-deal Brexit. The government is trying to allay fears by preparing measures to protect farming and other vulnerable sectors and to try to ensure deliveries of perishable goods and vital supplies are maintained.
But is this action too little too late?
UK government on farming:
The government is planning to help sheep farmers who would be among the worst hit by a no-deal Brexit.
The UK exports 30-40 per cent of its lamb and 90 per cent of that goes to the EU. Without a deal, an average tariff of 48 per cent would be imposed on sheep meat. This would kill the export market and result in an oversupply in the UK, driving down prices and potentially making many sheep farms unviable.
A Whitehall source said the Department for Environment Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) was “looking at specific interventions which will help to mitigate impacts for sheep farmers”.
The source pointed out that farmers in the EU would also face hardship if tariffs were imposed. The UK purchased more than 80 per cent of Denmark’s total exports of bacon and ham, worth £100 million, in 2018.
The National Sheep Association said the two support measures being discussed with Defra were a payment per breeding ewe or a top-up payment for each lamb sold.
The UK government on fish imports:
Trucks carrying fresh and live seafood will be given priority, enabling them to bypass queues in Kent. Lorries carrying day-old produce will get the same priority.
About 80 per cent of crab, lobster and other shellfish landed at UK ports is exported to the EU and is highly perishable.
Barrie Deas, chief executive of the National Federation of Fishermen’s Organisations, said the UK relied mainly on Iceland and Norway for cod and other white fish and these supplies were unlikely to be disrupted.
He said tariffs were only about 8 per cent on unprocessed fish so British exports were likely to maintain their market share because of their good reputation.
The UK government on travel:
A combination of coronavirus restrictions and Brexit means there is now the “real possibility” that Britons will be barred from travelling to the EU once the transition period ends, industry figures warn. The UK will become a “third nation” — with European borders closed to the majority of such countries at present.
Individual states can overrule the EU and permit access to foreigners. However, an estimated 2.5 million Britons face being unable to travel because their passports will be invalid. From January 1 documents will be required to have at least six months’ validity at the time of entry.
Tailbacks are likely on the M20 approach to the Eurotunnel in Folkestone. French authorities have been testing new software at their checkpoint in Kent, which has already caused delays.
Under EU regulations passengers whose flights are delayed or cancelled are owed compensation of up to €600. The Department for Transport confirmed the rules will become enshrined in UK law at the end of the transition period.
The UK government on medical supplies:
Drug companies have been increasing stockpiles to reduce the risk of shortages. While there would be no tariffs on medicines, deliveries could be delayed by extra border checks. The government is arranging new routes into the UK, including rapid air freight for urgent supplies.
Perishable Movements Limited remain on hand to support the UK government with temperature controlled transport and storage of critical medical supplies ioncluding the Coronavirus vaccine.
Keeping imported products fresh, clearing customs, DEFRA compliance and a faster route to market, let’s head inside the world of expert logistics and freight movement company Perishable Movements Limited.
It’s been a busy few months, but we’re delighted with our new purpose build Border Control Post (BCP) and DEFRA inspection facility which will keep our clients’ produce fresher for longer and speed up its route to market.
Fully kitted out with scales, magnifying lamps and washing areas, the DEFRA inspection area is completely compliant with UK import customs regulations. It is also set-up to ensure that Covid-19 guidelines as outlined by Public Health England and the UK Government are fully implemented. This includes measures to ensure social distancing can be adhered to by DEFRA inspectors and PML employees. The facility is also cleaned down and sanitised after every inspection.
Inside the Spalding located main warehouse and customs bonded area, you will find a fully approved HM Customs Border Control Post. With the opening of this facility in early November 2020, PML Ltd are able to hold large amounts of uncleared product from the multiple containers and vehicles that arrive at the site throughout the day.
Within the temperature controlled facility, purpose-built equipment such as racking systems are installed to increase capacity for both product awaiting inspection and for product that has passed through the DEFRA inspection area. All produce is kept at the optimum temperature for fresh goods of between 2-4 °C. Any produce that has failed the DEFRA inspection process is stored separately, well away from the other products in the warehouse.
What happens to the produce that fails the DEFRA inspection? As part of PML’s commitment to environmental sustainability and pledge to reduce wastage, all produce that fails DEFRA inspection is taken to an Anaerobic Digestion plant where it is turned into methane to generate electricity.
Want to know how PML can help streamline your freight movement of fresh produce and speed up your perishable goods route to market?
PML, the global perishable cargo specialist is partnering
with transport and logistics company FreshLinc to operate an HMRC /
DEFRA approved Border Control Post (BCP) and ERT (bonded warehouse)
facility at Fresh Linc’s Spalding HQ, enabling a speedier movement of
product from the ports and extending shelf life by up to 48 hours.
The BCP which has been in development for the last four months, will be
effective from 1st January 2021 and represents a £400,000 investment.
This includes the creation of a purpose-built 10,000 sq ft warehouse with
the ability to store 330 pallets; dedicated inspection areas for customs
and DEFRA and the training of four new dedicated staff to run the 24-hour
The decision to set up a BCP away from the ports – Spalding is within
easy reach of both Dover and Southampton docks – is in direct response
to the ongoing delays and excessive queues which currently impede the
onward movement of freight. The imperative to take action is amplified
given the specialist and sensitive nature of PML’s cargo – the majority of
consignments require temperature-controlled conditions – and the
anticipated further disruptions likely to be caused post Brexit.
The long-standing and trusted working relationship between the two
companies has enabled a seamless journey from the inception of the idea
to create a dedicated BCP at FreshLinc’s 70,000 sq ft site, to completion
of all the works required to meet the demanding criteria as defined by
HMRC and DEFRA.
“This is a great opportunity for us to work with PML to maintain the continuation of the food supply chain especially against the backdrop of the uncertain times we are now facing as a result of the challenges posed by Brexit and the coronavirus. The BCP is a perfect example of two like-minded businesses coming together to provide an innovative solution to an industry problem.”
Lee Juniper, Operations Director at FreshLinc.
“This venture will enable us to move product much faster from the ports, cut down on wasted journeys and should ultimately deliver a minimum of 24-48 hours additional shelf life on all our customers’ products. Our priority is to guarantee the safe and timely transfer of goods, ensuring that there are no breaks in the cold chain. By creating a remote BCP, we are no longer constrained by the issues at the ports and PML is able to operate and manage its own facility.”
PML Sales Director, Nick Finbow.