British ports left scrambling as Brexit deadline hovers

There are just 4 weeks left until the historic Brexit takes into effect. However, there's a common fear driving in the maritime circles in and around the UK: that the UK ports, terminals, and the services that support the operations are not ready.

As the UK government assures its citizens, there are predictions of the consequences ranging from delays and backlogs to disruptions and chaos for the vital flow of goods into and out of the UK.

As of the existing framework, Brexit will come into effect from January 1, 2021, when the first of the border controls are due to go into effect between the EU and the UK.

However, there are operators in and around the UK who report that critical tests on the systems required to manage the flow of goods have yet to be done leading to the fears that they will not be ready at the deadline.

“The delivery of IT systems necessary for the end of the transition period is on track,” said a UK government spokesperson to BBC London, trying to assure the citizens of a smooth transition.

Irrespective of the government's repeated assurances, many remain unconvinced that the ports and companies operating in the ports are prepared. The BBC reports that the Irish truckers’ association is the latest to predict upwards of six months of disruption based on where preparations stand today.

Predictions by the BBC as well as the Irish truckers’ association that lack of preparation in the Holyhead port of Wales could disrupt the Irish short-sea trade for upwards of six months.

Holyhead port in Wales is the second busiest ro-ro port behind Dover.

Situations are dire in other parts of the Union as well.

The Port of Felixstowe, the UK’s biggest and busiest container port, has been especially challenged in recent weeks, leading many to call the situation unacceptable and predicts that the port could become immobilized. Joining the problems are reports that the government accumulated 11,000 containers of PPE supplies at the port. The port’s operator, Hutchison Ports, notes that it is struggling with the Government's principal forwarder to remove the PPE containers as shortly as feasible.

With the ports already toiling to manage the current volumes, fears are only thriving over what might occur in January when the new networks are due to go into effect.

Photo credits: John Fielding, CC BY-SA 2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

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