The first days of January were quiet on the ferries from Europe to the United Kingdom. Mainly fruit, vegetable, flowers, and plant carriers were using these connections. Viktor Vijverberg is from Freight Line Europe (FLE), a Dutch refrigerated transport company. He's confident the preparations they've made will bear fruit in the coming weeks. "Volume-wise, we're in the low season anyway. That gives our clients and us time to adjust to the new order placement procedure. We must also get used to the importance of digital data exchange."
In preparation for Brexit, FLE and Dutch logistics company CSI Fresh joined forces. They've developed a platform that connects FLE and their UK broker. It enables the quick exchange of information. "Our clients place their loading orders via our web portal or an XML link. These are then sent digitally to CSI Fresh. They take care of export documentation. They also notify their British partner to get import declarations ready. This is the fastest way to deal with all the customs formalities out there."
Several of FLE's clients have been placing digital orders for years now. "So, we're not completely unfamiliar with digital ordering. But this new platform allows us to continue offering our clients the same service they were used to before 1 January. We can still receive orders in the morning, which we deliver that same night in the UK. Much more needs to be organized behind the scenes to continue being able to do so. However, it's very satisfying to see the investments we made in automation, and the time and energy we've devoted to preparation, paying off," says Viktor.
Vijverberg says, so far, Brexit hasn't had much of an effect on his company. "The UK and EU only reached a deal just before the deadline. And we faced some unexpected formality changes on Saturday, 2 January. We could, nonetheless, deal with them straight away. So, we were able to keep things going. There was no chaos at the ports' ferry companies."
It's hard to estimate how much congestion and delays there will be at the ports and Eurotunnel in the coming weeks. "Additional stock items shipped to the UK in December will slowly run out. Fruit and vegetable volumes are going to climb in the coming months too. The number of movements between the UK and the EU will, therefore, increase rapidly. We recognized and overcame the challenges brought by additional forms and inspections in good time. We're now fine-tuning these processes," Viktor concludes.