Back in the ‘80s, if you were a customs clearance clerk, you’d know about the differences
between the Deep Sea and Short Sea customs clearance departments. The more chilled
team versus the frantic, on-call, more stressed team. European transport, before JIT
evolved, was dependent on the latter team 24/7. It was a chaotic time.
Fast forward 35 years, it’s hard to believe we’ve returned, albeit with slight technological
improvements, to such archaic systems. But here we are, and we’re getting on with it.
Thankfully, the understanding from years gone around the urgency of short sea clearances
to reach time critical milestones has kept us in good stead. Having such insight has proved
hugely beneficial in predicting the need for route and modal shifts.
And with this in mind, we have worked hard to develop new relationships, particularly with
those in key strategic locations, to steer cargo to new routes unimpeded by the pain points
experienced at channel ports.
With the introduction of EU – UK border controls tightening; we predict a more permanent
shift away from traditional routes. So far, our clients have seen great success whilst
remaining consistent with their KPIs. However, we assess each movement’s specific
requirements as not all routes are equal. Our heritage in European on-demand transport
ensures we continue to place delivery KPIs, as well as service, at the forefront of our
Leaving the EU was never going to be easy. Still, when you add in the havoc and ripple
effects of a global pandemic, it can feel that the logistics sector is teetering on the edge of a
complete breakdown. The driver shortage is the most prominent example, brewing for
many years but now sharply in focus.
The fallout of EU haulage firms and drivers not coming or returning to the UK has been
apportioned to the risks of delays associated with border controls. Despite the current visa
offers and relaxation in cabotage, there has been little appetite to come to the UK, even
more so as we approach 1st January where full import controls are due to be introduced. As
our trading patterns with Europe become unbalanced, supply chains have to change, and
we are working hard to help our clients adapt to these changing conditions with minimal
Whilst in the land of the pandemic, sea freight has been flipped inside out as closures and
openings of ports and businesses globally have become out of sync as demand ramped up
and congestion kicked in. The value of an empty box in China has sky-rocketed, as much as
five times what you would have paid just a year ago. Once shipped, your box may not even
make its destination due to severe problems with space in the UK.
As reported by the national press, the return of empty containers to ports is now restricted,
resulting in their distribution all over the country. Ships that can’t unload will drop
containers into EU ports, feed into smaller UK ports, and get stuck there without a driver,
which leads us straight back to the driver shortage again.
So, what to do if you’re a business that trades internationally? From all the above volatility,
it sounds like you should give up before trying. However, great things can be achieved if we
It is crucial to have a freight forwarding partnership that provides a solid and stable service
levels and understands the opportunities opening up in this new landscape. The value of
having them on board through this challenging period will pay dividends in keeping your
supply chain moving and your customers happy.
If you can ask questions of what options are possible, you may find that new thinking can
emerge, enabling long term strategies to be realised.
In 2022 we will continue to provide more in-depth supply chain reviews with clients as the
full extent of leaving the EU reveals itself, and we discover whether Ocean freight rates
continue their unprecedented surge.
As we head again towards an interesting January 1st, 2022, we would like to take this
opportunity to thank our clients for their valued support and to wish everyone an
exceptional and very happy Christmas; you’ve earned it.
This article is part of the Winter 2021 e-newsletter