Brexit & Channel: Test of French customs system ‘very encouraging’

Truck arriving with simulated customs documents which were scanned at check-in by our staff. See the full post-Brexit flow that was tested in pictures in the gallery together with a video below

There was little support from the weather which showed its teeth with high winds and a bit of rain. But there was plenty of support from our colleagues working in the Channel business – and from lorry drivers – when the French authorities’ newly developed customs system and our system and processes were all tested in a full-scale exercise with real trucks and full ships on Tuesday this week, attracting massive media attention and followed closely by several trade associations, including the influential Freight Transport Association.

Separate tests of the IT systems took place from Calais and Dunkerque at morning departures and the full-scale tests at departures from Dover to Calais and Dunkerque in the afternoon, as we expect these to be the most challenging ones after Brexit.

We followed the departure for Calais at 15:20 on board Cote de Dunes. At arrival at check-in in Dover, all trucks were given simulated customs documents which were scanned at check-in by our staff and paired with the booking. This revealed that if the driver has the correct documents, the time to process the truck is almost the same as today. The customs documents were artificially ‘presented’ electronically to French Customs by the ‘customs agent’ and when the ferry left the port, French customs presented a list of all the boarded trucks’ license plates on a TV screen in the drivers’ lounge on board. The screen showed orange signs for the trucks they wanted to check upon arrival, and green signs for trucks that could continue their journey without being checked.

Even though the truck drivers participated voluntarily, they all understood the system, and trucks with orange signs did chose the lane with an orange stripe that took them to the control area. The rest continued without any delays and traffic flow was fully maintained.

The conclusion was as encouraging as it was illuminating: The systems works, as do our systems and processes, and it looks as if we can handle traffic and ensure the flow across the Channel in a post-Brexit world – provided that the trucks that arrive at check-in have prepared and present the customs documents.

“Unfortunately, we know that many customers and operators will – for various reasons – still be unprepared and arrive without having completed their customs formalities. Therefore, we have to be prepared that traffic could be disrupted at the beginning, even though systems and processes are ready and work. It is in everyone’s interest to avoid delays, and some may even suffer losses because of it, so we are confident that there will be a steep learning curve that will quickly reduce the number of unprepared trucks,” says Jean Aubert of the Brexit team .

“It has therefore become very clear that for the next four weeks, information to and support for our customers with preparing for customs clearance must move to the top of our agenda,” he says.

“This was a huge success, and it did not come by itself. In all parts of our Channel business, people have been working tirelessly to get ready for this. Our IT teams, Jesper Christensen’s operations team, our commercial teams and our customs team in France where Stéphanie, Hubert and Clarisse have spent nearly a full week of work on preparing the test and following up with the authorities – all deserve our gratitude and great credit for the work. Thank you also to the Brexit team and the people in the Group’s IT department where those working with Brexit have worked many late hours and weekends at work to get ready for this.

“Thanks to all of you, we have come really far in our preparations and the test demonstrated that we have the right things in place, and did it in the right way,” says Kasper Moos, Head of BU Short Routes & Passenger.

Kasper was not able to witness the test himself as he was occupied in a meeting with the British government – about Brexit!

A full scale test of post Brexit customs systems and processes on Tuesday was very successful.

See the full post-Brexit flow that was tested in pictures in the gallery below and a video below

September 27, 2019