Seafood fast tracked in no deal Brexit

Scot­land forges closer links with coun­ter­parts in Boulogne

Fish Farmer - - Brussels – Seafood Expo Global 2019 -

SCOT­TISH seafood com­pa­nies have struck a deal with French of­fi­cials in Boulogne-surMer to fast track ex­ports to Europe in the event of a no deal Brexit. Eight border in­spec­tor bays will be set up in the town, ready to check lor­ries car­ry­ing seafood. The drivers will be is­sued with spe­cial passes so they will not have to join lengthy queues at Calais if bor­ders close.

Salmon farm­ers and shell­fish firms have been con­cerned about po­ten­tial de­lays of road freight at Calais once Bri­tain leaves the EU.

Lor­ries trans­port seafood ev­ery day from the UK to Boulogne-sur-Mer, the vast ma­jor­ity com­ing from Scot­land.

Scot­tish gov­ern­ment agen­cies, lo­gis­tics spe­cial­ist DFDS and seafood busi­nesses have been col­lab­o­rat­ing with their French coun­ter­parts to find a sys­tem that suits both sides, said Pa­trick Hughes, head of Seafood Scot­land, who had meet­ings with the mayor of Boulogne-sur-Mer dur­ing Seafood Expo Global.

One op­tion that had been dis­cussed was to use air freight to trans­port seafood ex­ports in a no deal sce­nario.

Hughes said they looked into air routes di­rect from Scot­land to Europe, via Lille or a re­gional Bel­gian air­port close to Boulogne-sur-Mer, but the cost made the plan un­vi­able.

‘It was go­ing to be ten times more ex­pen­sive to do it by air freight than to ship it by road and that’s not fea­si­ble.’

The Scot­tish sec­tor has forged closer links with the French as a re­sult of look­ing at al­ter­na­tive trans­port op­tions, said Hughes, and this led to the sub­se­quent agree­ment over border in­spec­tion posts.

‘Seafood will po­ten­tially get fast tracked from Calais so there wouldn’t be any de­lays on the French side. And then it will be pro­cessed in Boulogne and there will be min­i­mal de­lay,’ he said.

‘In the event of a no deal Brexit, that sys­tem will au­to­mat­i­cally kick into place. The rea­son that has

come about is be­cause there is a will­ing­ness and a need on both sides to come up with a so­lu­tion.

‘The Scot­tish seafood sec­tor were con­cerned about the po­ten­tial de­lays and po­ten­tial losses they would in­cur if a no deal Brexit came along and seafood was left to rot.

‘DFDS can’t af­ford de­lays be­cause they would need ex­tra drivers and be­cause their times are so tight, so there was a need for the Scot­tish in­dus­try to look at so­lu­tions.

‘But equally there was a de­sire in Boulogne-Sur-Mer be­cause they rely very heav­ily on the Scot­tish im­ports. There are 5,000 jobs in Boulogne that rely on the seafood sec­tor.’

Hughes said if Brexit has led to any­thing it is a greater de­gree of col­lab­o­ra­tion between Scot­land and other part­ners.

‘We’re work­ing so much closer now with lo­gis­tics and with in­ter­na­tional coun­ter­parts to come up with so­lu­tions.’

The Boulogne ar­range­ment doesn’t nec­es­sar­ily negate po­ten­tial de­lays at Dover, how­ever, and Hughes said now they have to en­sure seafood is fast tracked at the UK end too.

The next fo­cus for the seafood agen­cies is to ad­dress the prob­lem of ex­port health cer­tifi­cates, which are not needed in the EU at the mo­ment but could cost the sec­tor £15 mil­lion in a no deal si­t­u­a­tion.

‘We need to act be­cause the in­dus­try needs so­lu­tions,’ said Hughes, and Seafood Scot­land is col­lec­tively work­ing with the Scot­tish gov­ern­ment, DFDS, the Scot­tish Salmon Pro­duc­ers Or­gan­i­sa­tion (SSPO), and the Scot­tish Seafood As­so­ci­a­tion.

SSPO chief ex­ec­u­tive Julie Hes­keth-Laird later con­firmed dur­ing the Brussels show that ex­port health cer­ti­fi­ca­tion for salmon was likely to be dig­i­talised by July.

‘We have been putting a lot of work in with the UK and Scot­tish gov­ern­ments to make sure that ex­port health cer­ti­fi­ca­tion can be done dig­i­tally. It cur­rently in­volves a lot of pa­per­work,’ said Hes­keth-Laird.

She said the SSPO was also try­ing to avert de­lays caused by staff short­ages by sta­tion­ing more cer­ti­fi­ca­tion of­fi­cers at the DFDS trans­port hub at Larkhall, where some salmon is cer­ti­fied.

‘Cer­ti­fi­ca­tion is the re­spon­si­bil­ity of lo­cal author­i­ties, but Ru­ral Econ­omy Sec­re­tary Fergus Ewing is sup­port­ive of the sug­ges­tion,’ she said.

“There is a will­ing­ness and a need on both sides to come up with on” a so­luti

Above: Pa­trick Hughes

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