Looking back to the future of a Perishables Brexit at Multimodal

Cool Logistics
May 8, 2018 · 4 min read
Credit: Multimodal 2018

By Alex von Stempel, Director, Cool Logistics Resources Ltd

Multimodal in Birmingham hosted a lively Perishable Brexit session chaired by Cool Logistics Resources. Consisting of representatives of the British and EU transport and logistics sector, the panel was asked to consider waking up to a hard Brexit on March 29 next year.

The prospect of a scenario involving no transitional deal sent cold shivers through the audience yet also there were some surprising new insights about how Brexit could be made to work for perishables such as fresh produce, protein, pharmaceuticals etc. and how the logistics sector would make it all work, come next March.

Nick Lowe, managing director of Dachser UK painted a picture of a UK largely continuing to function based on existing European-wide supply chains, with John Keefe, Director for Public affairs for Eurotunnel, raising the importance of food imports to the UK economy. “20% of food is being imported in the UK by the Channel Tunnel alone”, he said.

The option of a return to hard borders between the UK and the EU with customs checks and lorries in particular piling up on both sides of the Channel was roundly rejected by everyone on the panel.

However, far from foreseeing a horror scenario it fell to Joachim Coens, CEO of the Port of Zeebrugge and Robert Hardy commercial director of Oaklands International to throw a lifeline across the channel whilst offering constructive perspectives.

Mr Coens argued that unaccompanied traffic would benefit in future, especially as the shortage of truck drivers is unlikely to be resolved (and if anything is likely to get worse as a result of controlling UK immigration). He also mentioned that the process of digitisation was progressing well thereby helping streamline the customs process in Zeebrugge and helping to create greater transparency of the supply chain between cargo owners and the logistics service sector.

Clearly customs checks, as well as manning of the border inspection process of both phytosanitary and veterinary checkpoints, will not be resolved without some Government input. However, although the possible privatisation of these essential services, currently provided by Government agencies, was not explicitly mentioned, it was clear between the lines.

“There is no reason why BIP services could not be located inland,” said Robert Hardy from Oaklands, which offers both frozen and chilled distribution services in the UK and Ireland. At which point Alex von Stempel, Managing Director of Cool Logistics Resources could not resist saying: “If anybody from the UK Government is in attendance at this session they should come forward now.”

Away from the debatable claims of whether or not the UK will be able to conclude better bilateral trade agreements than it currently has under the EU umbrella by embracing WTO terms, Brexit might offer a new global perspective for perishables.

Deepsea ports could see more reefer traffic from the Southern Hemisphere in the future as Spanish producers may no longer force off prematurely from UK supermarket shelves South African or Latin American citrus fruit. From September onwards most EU ‘third countries’ have to make way for Spanish produce.

How in practice a ‘Perishable Brexit’ might create new value propositions is more difficult to answer, but even here there are a few notable highlights: a new train service connecting Zeebrugge and Sete in the South of France and another rail service between London Gateway deepsea container traffic and Russia and China point at more reefer traffic potential.

Primarily geared at addressing the shortage of cold store facilities in the South East, the new CMA CGM cold store planned at London Gateway could offer faster rail freight connection between London and the Far East. It could even offer new opportunities for frozen products from the UK.

Given that in purely practical terms the complexity of creating new bilateral trading regimes will take time to develop, with agreements having to be reached for each different product category, the perishable logistics opportunities may be limited and appear merely as wishful thinking.

Yet no doubt, British consumers would certainly take to the idea of being given the choice of more quality produce. Some may probably pay for this, especially if delivered directly to their fridges at home.

How global perishable supply chains will evolve over the next few months and years will provide food for thought for the perishable logistics sector, including the development of fledgling perishable services by road, sea, air and for future perishable logistics events.

By Alex von Stempel, Director, Cool Logistics Resources Ltd

Cool Logistics Resources provides top-quality business intelligence and networking for supply chain, logistics and transport professionals in the international perishables markets. The annual Cool LogisticsTM Global Conference in Europe connects perishable cargo owners with cold chain logistics and transport professionals from around the world. CLR publishes The Cool Logistician, a monthly curated collection of the best perishable trade and logistics news from across the worldwide web, including expert opinion, analysis and views from the Cool team and guest authors as published on the Cool Logistics blog


Cool Logistics

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Cool Logistics provides top-quality events & information for cold supply chain, logistics & transport professionals in the international perishables markets

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