Deliveries of Scottish seafood to the EU by smaller companies were suspended until Monday, 18 January, as post-Brexit problems with health checks, IT systems and customs documents caused a huge backlog.
Scottish fishing has plunged into crisis as trucks with direct seafood and some fish destined for shops and restaurants in France, Spain and other countries have been rejected because they take too long to arrive.
The largest logistics provider in the industry, DFDS, a Danish company, noted delays regarding health certificates, issues with the IT system interface between the group and local authorities, and inaccurate or lost customs documentation from customers.
The new Brexit rules require that every box of seafood and fish be unloaded from trucks and inspected by veterinarians before leaving Scotland. It took business owners five hours per truck to obtain a health certificate, which is required to apply for other customs documents.
If the issues are not resolved soon, some fear that trade, worth more than $ 1 billion a year for Scottish businesses, could collapse.
Faced with the backlog, DFDS suspended its grouped export service allowing several exporters to group products together in a single consignment last Friday, a week after the UK’s departure from the EU.
She said she wanted to sort out IT issues and train more staff to help her clients get customs documentation properly. It is understood that shipments with a single consignment, with a commodity are still being delivered.
DFDS said deliveries were expected to resume next Monday, but the service would take much longer than before Brexit, and stressed the importance of 100% accurate documents.
Goods shipped on day 1, for example from Larkhall near Glasgow, are now scheduled to arrive in Boulogne on day 3 one or two days longer than it took to ship goods to France before Brexit.
Customers are told to wait before sending orders until they receive written permission and complete a summary control document for each export shipment. DFDS said: Working together, we aim for a powerful service to work very quickly again.
Jimmy Buchan, chief executive of the Scottish Seafood Association, told the Guardian that the problems were caused in part by the new untested and untested system, which went into effect on December 28 when the industry was on holiday.
We jumped to the deep end. Weve had two years to prepare for this and the government is standing behind and saying: This is what you wanted.
He suggested setting up an independent cleaning house for Europe in Scotland, which cleans seafood on Scottish soil and should not be stopped again until it arrives in France.
He said this would save valuable time and could enable the industry to make overnight deliveries again.
Cabinet Office Minister Michael Gove told MPs that Britain needed to provide easy access to Europe for the Scottish seafood industry.
[Regarding] The specific issue of seafood supplies, due to their perishable nature, is absolutely important to ensure the smoothest possible access to European and other markets, he told parliament.
At the same time, the UK government proposed to speed up the empty grocery trucks of supermarkets returning to Europe to refill, amid concerns that disruption at ports could lead to food shortages, the Financial Times reported (paywall).
A consultation document sent to the industry by the agriculture ministry on Tuesday said the potential for further disruption remains high.
She said: “Given the potential for border delays to affect supply chains in the coming weeks, we are proposing an emergency measure to speed up the return of empty food trucks from the UK to the EU where they can be refilled with supplies.” .
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