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Looking into Brexit from Europe
Whatever deal is struck between the UK and the EU (if one ever is), the consequences are not just going to affect UK port operators and a number of major ports trading vehicles with the UK have expressed their concerns and talked about plans for the future. Some have also suggested that they could benefit. Europe’s biggest vehicle handling port, Zeebrugge, says it is preparing for the worst but hoping for the best. With that in mind, it has recruited more customs personnel and developed a new PCS (port community system) platform. “Regular meetings were organised with border control services and the private sector. The awareness of all stakeholders was created so that all parties in the logistics chain are prepared for a hard Brexit,” says the port spokesperson. The port says a contingency plan will guarantee a smooth change in the port of Zeebrugge and a continuous flow of the trucks and trains that are moving in and out of it with new cars. However, it also highlights uncertain factors affecting trade between UK and the EU. These include the exchange rate between them, which has an influence on the buying power of UK citizens and also investments or disinvestments, like Honda’s decision to close its plant in Swindon after the current model year of the Civic and Nissan’s decision to cancel X-Trail production in Sunderland – measures that will change trade patterns. At Cuxhaven, Rhenus Logistics says that together with its customers, shipping companies and partners, as well as customs authorities, it is preparing for Brexit by extending storage areas at the port. In addition, Cuxport’s IT system has been updated and augmented to facilitate electronic data interchange (EDI) with customs and employees trained accordingly. That said, Rhenus does not expect there to be a severe impact on its business because most of the trade to the UK from Cuxhaven consists of unaccompanied trucks. Chaos without a deal
The port of Antwerp says it does not anticipate being heavily affected by Brexit in terms of finished vehicle trade with the UK because that is not a big part of its overall maritime traffic. However, the port authority also says that overall, the UK is the second-largest maritime partner country for it and circumstances do not suggest a positive outlook for the port or for the companies based there. In fact, it says that any small or medium sized company in Europe is going to be affected. The port says that in the event of a hard Brexit without any deal on the table, there will be no period of transition – and therefore some chaos. “We welcome a postponement of the Brexit date, in order for the customs authorities and the Federal Agency for Food Safety to have more time to increase capacity,” says Antwerp’s spokesperson.However, the port is not relying on wishful thinking and has appointed a representative in the UK to report back on all Brexit-related matters.“We do feel that companies are interested to relocate their European distribution facilities from the UK to the European continent and to the Flanders region in particular,” says the port spokesperson. “Furthermore, we expect more direct cargo flows between Ireland and the port of Antwerp.”