Brexit: “Seeking agreement in a changing process”

On and around ferry terminals in particular, Customs and companies have plenty of work to do – IJmuiden is no exception. Preparations there are running smoothly, according to those concerned.

In partnership with ferry service DFDS Seaways, KVSA ships about 600,000 passengers and 30,000 units of cargo between Newcastle and IJmuiden every year. The British departure from the EU has major consequences for the mode of operation of this maritime service provider and its partners. But thanks to timely preparations KVSA is ready. The same applies to the customs officers who will soon take responsibility for goods control at the terminal.

Every morning a large ferry moors at the Felison Terminal on the Sluisplein in IJmuiden, carrying both cargo and passengers with their cars. As soon as it is empty the ferry is reloaded for the return voyage to Newcastle. A well-oiled process, which nevertheless requires a new structure according to Florian Vreeburg, managing director of KVSA (on the right in the photo). “If the United Kingdom is soon to become a third party, we will have customs formalities to deal with. Nobody knew quite what to expect at first, but we started preparing ourselves for Brexit as soon as we could. An internal work group set about examining what the various scenarios – Danish model, Swiss model, hard Brexit – would mean for us. Apart from DFDS we also engaged in talks with other shippers. Once it became clear where things were heading, we focused on three main themes: our terminal grounds, the required customs authorisations and our IT housekeeping.”

IT in order
The ferry services are organised under the flag of the Maritime & Logistics department. KVSA also has a second arm, Data & Intelligence. Vreeburg: “Apart from our own FTMS terminal management system we have also prepared management software for the seaport of IJmuiden and see to the planning for the river cruise ships moored behind Amsterdam Central Station. And inside FTMS, which records all freight movements by land and sea, the necessary adjustments for Brexit have already been made. In the new situation there is, for example, an obligation to set up a space for temporary storage – STS – at our premises on the terminal grounds. Such an STS requires its own administration, as well as a connection to FTMS. In addition to this, connections have to be established with the Port Community System of Portbase – and the existing connections with DFDS renewed – due to all the extra information we will have to share once Brexit becomes a reality.”

“A number of conditions must be fulfilled for an STS permit”, Physical Inspections team leader Jeroen Koekkoek (on the left in photo) explains. “You need a comprehensive Internal Management Administrative Organisation and you have to work with audit-files and perform a baseline measurement. KVSA had already made considerable progress in this regard.”

Next move for Customs
With the new life that has been breathed into the customs control of ferry traffic between the UK and the continent, after decades of free movement, it is now time for Customs to step up to the plate. “The declarations system is fully operational”, says Koekkoek. “We now have accommodation, work stations, means of verification and personnel. It will be a mix of experienced employees and new inflow. Only time and experience will tell us how many people are actually needed to keep things running smoothly here in IJmuiden. It may take some getting used to at first but we are confident that things will come right. Naturally the port area presents a few challenges. For example our mobile container scanner, the Mobix, does not fit on the terminal here. People and animals are not permitted within a 30 metre perimeter because of the radiation. Fortunately we found a good alternative location on the quay some two hundred metres further along the North Sea Canal. If a semi-trailer for example has to be physically inspected, we will direct it to that location. We have drawn a line on the quay so that colleagues know where to position the Mobix, in other words exactly in line with the movement of traffic. Which means that the driver can continue on his way immediately after the scan, assuming everything is in order.”

Making the most of the space
Nor does Vreeburg see many problems ahead. “Our staff on the terminal are equipped with a hand-held device which tells you the status of an item of freight. After all, when a semi-trailer disembarks, you need to know if it can be delivered without further ado. A semi-trailer with code red, for example, will have to be placed in a separate location on the terminal so that Customs can check it. Space is limited so it can take some time to sort this out. One thing that helps here is that from now on, advance notice can be given of all freight using the Port Community System of Portbase. Occasionally this means last-minute consignments not accompanied by the correct documents. But this is something we can also take care of on location – we have all the expertise we need to deal with customs formalities, or any potential risk of congestion on the terminal because shipments are waiting to be released, for example. In cooperation with the Directorate-General for Infrastructure and Water Management we have set up a buffer parking area to which lorries and semi-trailers can be directed. In due course KVSA will acquire more space and take on additional personnel. This expansion is not related to Brexit however – the two ships currently operated by DFDS are soon to be replaced by ships of similar design but with twice as much cargo capacity.”

 All professionals
The various solutions were not arrived at without a struggle. “Each party has its own interests and was not ready to compromise at first”, says Vreeburg. “The fact that we succeeded in reaching agreement demonstrates the quality of our working relationship. Customs deserves a compliment for its dedication and commitment. People from all parts of the service – including management level – came here to see the situation for themselves and contribute ideas about how to deal with potential bottlenecks. We were not given special treatment. KVSA is subject to the same customs regime and the same customs controls as any other company. So all things considered, the loading and unloading process will soon be a bit more complicated than it is today. Customs and KVSA have to reach agreement in this process. But we are all professionals and this is certainly not a cause of concern as far as I am concerned.”

Practice makes perfect
The quality of cooperation is also emphasised by Koekkoek. “KVSA gave us every opportunity to practise with incoming and outgoing freight. We were able to experience the hustle and bustle, when a ship has just arrived, for ourselves. How do you temporarily separate cars without causing congestion? What is the quickest and easiest route to the quay for vehicles selected for customs control? As a Physical Inspections officer, what is the best way of cooperating with your colleagues from the Scan and Detection Team? During practice sessions, we discovered for example that you have to raise the height of a delivery van for scanning. Such insights are extremely useful. I have no hesitation in saying that we are as prepared for Brexit as we possibly can be. The situation in IJmuiden may change, but we are of course quite familiar with the kind of work involved. And in the meantime we know exactly what kind of goods are being transported, in both directions.”

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