Brexit Influence on Trailer Movements Sees a New Surcharge Imposed at Ports

UK – It is an accepted fact that when a tax or surcharge is introduced into the shipping sector, the rate originally charged then rarely ever goes down or disappears altogether. Therefore the latest move by the Ports of Felixstowe and Harwich has gone down like a lead balloon with industry participants. As soon as Britain’s attitude to overseas drivers was made clear the obvious move was for trailers to switch from accompanied to unaccompanied status, thus avoiding any potential problems with visas etc.

It also had other side effects such as potentially avoiding the GBP2,000 penalty levied on drivers arriving for each stowaway migrant found in their truck. Now the two Hutchison operated ports say that the changing trend has caused the unaccompanied trailers to sit on the quay for longer than in pre-Brexit days so have decreed levies to be charged on every unaccompanied trailer, no matter how long the unit has sat awaiting pick up. There is however confusion over exactly who will pay as we explain below.

The Port says the increased dwell time has led to congestion and reduced operational capacity and that to help fund the required infrastructure it will charge a ‘RoRo Unaccompanied Cargo Levy’, effective from 1st January 2022, of GBP3.50 per freight unit. The charge will be payable by the customs declarant, i.e. the clearing agent which will then receive a GBP0.50p rebate to reimburse them for any administrative costs. So how long will the levy remain in place you may well ask (and many have)?

The answer from the Ports is a masterclass in prevarication we shall not bore you with but, suffice it to say, there is no end in sight as yet. Another point raised is, why should anyone who clears and collects a trailer within 24 hours be liable for what is effectively a parking fine? The answer is because Hutchison Ports thinks this will have the least impact (well it will for them as they won’t have to administer anything extra).

The details of the scheme, such as they are, can be downloaded in full HERE.(final item) Groupage cargo will see the lead declarant in Destin8 invoiced, it applies to all laden semi-trailers, containers on Mafis, flat racks and trade vehicles (including caravans and all other wheeled cargo) whilst empty trucks returning for restitution in the UK will not be charged for. The aforementioned confusion after we received the official press information led to our enquiry as to what happens if there is more than one consignment on a truck but with different agents handling clearance.

Which one foots the bill? Neither port was able to answer this question without further discussion and we are told a meeting is currently under way which should clarify whether the charge actually applies to the unit, or conversely each consignment on the unit assigned to different clearance agents. Common sense says nobody is going to volunteer payment if other goods for another agent are on the same trailer.

The Felixstowe Port Users Association (FPUA) has expressed concern at the charge and is strongly opposed to its introduction, stating that, if there is to be a charge, this should rather be targeting the ferry services which serve the ports, namely DFDS and Stena Line.

Once details of who is actually liable to pay the levy become clear we shall publish it, most likely in our Friday round up.

Photo: Courtesy Port of Harwich.