With just over five weeks left until the end of the Brexit transition period, fear is continuing to rise that the UK ports, terminals, and the services that support the operations are not ready.
Increasingly, 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, while the government continues to issue assurances.
According to the current timetable, on January 1, 2021, the first of the border controls are due to go into effect between the European Union and the UK. Operators around the UK 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.
BBC News reports that the tests for some of the systems are still two weeks away while they are reporting that the government says it is working closely with all parties to prepare for the end of the transition period.
The BBC quoted a government spokesperson as saying, “the delivery of IT systems necessary for the end of the transition period is on track.”
Despite the 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.
They are citing the Holyhead port in Wales, which is the second busiest ro-ro port behind Dover. Despite assurances by the port’s operators, there are fears that the lack of preparation at Holyhead could disrupt the Irish short-sea trade for upwards of six months.
The Irish Road Haulage Association, according to the BBC and other media outlets, said the first six months of 2021 would be terrible due to the lack of preparations with fears of mayhem.
Predictions of the potential to interrupt the UK economy and industry are increasing. For example, they cite the automotive industry that functions on just-in-time delivery of parts necessary in production.
The UK’s busiest ports have already been scrambling to manage a rapid rise in cargo. With businesses seeking to restock and rebound from the earlier impacts of the pandemic, many ports are already experiencing heavy volumes.
Adding to the challenges is a rush to get supplies across the borders before the deadline and new lockdowns due to efforts to control the latest wave of the virus.
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 forecasts that the port could become paralyzed.