Cham­ber of Ship­ping chief voices con­cerns over Brexit ‘no deal’

Belfast Telegraph - Business Telegraph - - News - BY KALYEENA MAKORTOFF

THE head of the UK’S ship­ping in­dus­try trade body says the Gov­ern­ment fi­nally un­der­stands the “cat­a­strophic” im­pact a nodeal Brexit sce­nario could have on trade, but claims EU au­thor­i­ties are fail­ing to pre­pare for that out­come.

UK Cham­ber of Ship­ping chief ex­ec­u­tive Guy Plat­ten said the most im­me­di­ate con­cern is how a hard Brexit with no tran­si­tion pe­riod would af­fect the fer­ry­ing of freight across the British Chan­nel, with just minute de­lays re­sult­ing in sig­nif­i­cant back-ups for goods in­clud­ing fresh pro­duce de­liv­er­ies or car parts for man­u­fac­tur­ers.

“The port at Portsmouth has done a lit­tle cal­cu­la­tion — they reckon if there was just a two-minute de­lay, whilst checks were made, that would add 15 hours on to the day re­ally, in terms of de­lays,” Mr Plat­ten said.

“If we then put in a hard cus­toms bor­der, then those de­lays will have quite cat­a­strophic ef­fects on the sup­ply chain at least in the short and medium-term.”

The in­dus­try body — which rep­re­sents over 180 shipown­ers, ser­vice com­pa­nies and in­dus­try or­gan­i­sa­tions — has gained the ear of Gov­ern­ment in the wake of the Brexit vote and is now hold­ing “reg­u­lar meet­ings” with the likes of the De­part­ment for Trans­port and the De­part­ment for Ex­it­ing the European Union, Mr Plat­ten said.

But while British min­is­ters are now alive to the risks, he claimed EU coun­ter­parts have not pre­pared.

“One of the con­cerns we have is not so much with the UK Gov­ern­ment, who re­ally do get the is­sue now,” he said.

“But we’re not sure our European part­ners are re­ally do­ing too much in this area. And that’s a con­cern, be­cause with any sys­tem we have here, there has got to be a sys­tem on the other side of the bor­der oth­er­wise all we’d be do­ing any­way is shift­ing that prob­lem.”

He said that recog­ni­tion has been ev­i­denced by Prime Min­is­ter Theresa May’s ref­er­ences to fric­tion­less trade and the push for a tran­si­tional pe­riod, as well as the fact that the fer­ry­ing of goods war­ranted its own sec­tion in a Gov­ern­ment white pa­per on cus­toms pro­ce­dures.

“A real con­cern is what the French au­thor­i­ties and what oth­ers are do­ing, what con­tin­gency plans are they mak­ing, and we’re not see­ing so much de­tail on that.”

Oth­ers this week said the UK should not be “ter­ri­fied” of leav­ing with no deal and trad­ing on World Trade Or­gan­i­sa­tion terms.

The UK Gov­ern­ment has floated ideas in­clud­ing the use of a vir­tual or e-cus­toms bor­der sys­tem that would use num­ber plate recog­ni­tion to al­low lor­ries to cross with­out phys­i­cal checks.

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