Where will the GVMS creaky start lead us next?
If you’ve been following social media channels you’ll see transport operators across Europe and the UK seething about delays at borders as the new GVMS system becomes live.
With no time to have meaningful trials in 2021 the first anyone could properly use the system came on 1st January 2022. This nonsensical situation was destined to deliver problems for its users.
From the get-go we experienced our own delays as a truck that loaded in 2021 (between Xmas and new Year) had an entry that didn’t compute with a system only expecting jobs from 2022. Numerous calls to HMRC went from being ignored to simply being unable to help.
Thankfully our customs experts here didn’t give up the fight and came through with a technical work around and have since been discussing intensely with the Customs Development Team with suggestions for improvements. Unfortunately, the bureaucratic nature of these departments means we may be stuck with a stubbornly tricky system for some time yet.
Although no mention on the mainstream news, HMRC did declare they were dealing with a lot of ‘user errors’, which we felt was a bit unfair on us users. Many of the queries we’ve been talking about with other forwarders and agents are for things which either aren’t clearly written or no-one knows the answer to. Even HMRC.
As last year, the first across the borders are expected to iron out the problems before the inevitable pick up later in the month. However, it’s not the use of the system that will be under scrutiny, it’s the capacity all round to work this extra layer of red tape, co-ordinating exact information between different parties to avoid costly delays.
An area of angst which is emerging is determining who is responsible for raising the GMR (goods movement reference). There’s been a lot of pushback from hauliers who feel this is not a responsibility they wish to bear. Some clearance agents and forwarders are being asked to do this instead of the carrier which blurs the lines of what legal exposure there will be should there be a problem.
The system is designed to inform the user (usually the carrier) of any exceptions such as a requirement to attend a BCP (border control post). Failing to do so can mean a fine being levied. If someone other than the carrier creates the GMR, what then would happen if the carrier doesn’t show up at the BCP. Who is responsible and who pays the fine? The inputter or the carrier. Furthermore, who pays the haulier or the client if the clearance agent is late to enter, if the MRN number is wrong or a myriad of other possibilities? Both haulier and client are now exposed to the same costly delays where cause is not always clear.
There is no doubt this will be a stressful time for all involved as volumes increase, and to make this work a clear process has to be in place that customs agent, haulier and client can agree on and work to. So far everything a clearance agent is asked to do concerning GVMS has now become a priority. This is in stark contrast to many of the shipments in 2021 where the approach taken to customs entries was often more than casual.
Now hauliers are barking loudly for the agent to hurry up with the pre-lodgement. Of course that’s expected, the truck is in motion and the entry needs to be done before it hits the border. Scale this single episode up and you will understand the problem. If you’ve ever seen the Eisenhower Matrix you’ll know everything can’t be a priority – unless you want a nervous breakdown.
The inevitable teething problems in the first weeks of using the system mimic to some extent what we experienced last year with export controls. However, look at what has happened to GB exports. The process may have been ironed out now, but it remains unwanted and costly, destroying export trade and creating avoidance of GB markets from hauliers.
Don’t sit back just yet though, we’re not finished. Looking beyond the next few months comes 1st July 2022 where an even more difficult layer of administration comes into effect. SPS goods will be subject to physical checks, export health certificates will be required and safety & security declarations need to generated. This is looking increasingly like a more serious situation due to the current lack of resources all round.
So as full import controls become established on a predominantly importing nation, what then does the future hold?
In transport terms we expect a further shift to routes away from Dover and modes like un-accompanied and container. In the 80’s a self-drive was a premium service, we may see due to the fast-increasing prices to navigate the border accompanied a return to this landscape. Many EU hauliers already avoiding the UK due to export controls will become even more scarce now with two-way controls. And no-one to fill the gap pushing prices up further. Just-in-time will become all but redundant and only reserved for the very optimistic or those who have refused or are unable to change.
It’s difficult to predict what the full economic impact will be, but we can be sure the result for the UK will be higher prices and less choice. This has always been certain. It will be a slow process, and with the pandemic still raging it may be imperceivable making it difficult to understand why we’re all getting more agitated than ever before. But it’s unavoidable and when the pandemic eventually clears, which it will, we will see exactly why.
It’s a grim ending to a sorry tale but we live in hope that a better future awaits with more co-operation with the EU, not less. They are our biggest and closest trading partner after all, and it remains a strange decision to impose economic sanction on ourselves. Whether this is sustainable or desirable for the majority only time will tell.
Our job here at Jordon is to help companies adapt to these changes and minimise the pain as they transition to a new way of working. By having both customs and transport in-house we take some of the administrative and logistical problems away. It’s what we’re good at and we hope that what positive impact we can achieve with each company goes some way to bringing small successes as we detach from the past and couple up the new. A vision of a positive future is what we sorely need, in business and society, and hope is where we currently reside. We will do our best to be part of the movement.