The Port of Antwerp readies for a 'hard Brexit'

The Port of Antwerp readies for a 'hard Brexit'
By Meabh Mc Mahon
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Delays at the border, problems for truck drivers, Europe's second largest port prepares for the turbulence of a No Deal.


It is a busy morning at this logistics company in the port of Antwerp. With a few weeks to go until the Brexit deadline, cancer drugs are being sent en masse to the UK.

"We see in the last three months, especially after the new Prime Minister was elected, everyone starts now physically preparing for a hard Brexit," Stefan Durt, Sales Manager, Yusen Logistics.

But what would a hard Brexit mean for Stefan Durt and his colleagues?

"Immediately, there will be some delays at the Dover/Calais crossing as people will have to do some paperwork. All the rest is related to custom and fiscal settings," says Durt.

For this Yusen Logistics is ready. Customers have adapted their VAT numbers. What really worries Stefan now is how Brexit will impact his drivers who all stem from Eastern Europe.

"I think it will make life more difficult in transportation, how we can use drivers in the UK, whether they can still use their current European permits to drive in and around the UK. It will be harder for us to find the necessary capacity for drivers, it is definitely not a good thing."

Yusen Logistics is just one of 900 companies based in the Port of Antwerp that will be impacted by Brexit. Port authorities have been preparing since the day after the referendum in June 2016.

"We did quite a lot of seminars, we organised roadshows in the UK and Ireland. Also here we organised sensibilisation programmes, we wrote a white paper, a position paper, we recruited a representative from the UK Justin Aktin and we did a lot of other things to prepare ourselves," explains Wim Dillen President of Antwerp Port's Brexit Task Force.

Wim is not the only one ready and set. According to research from Price Waterhouse Coopers, Belgium is better prepared than its neighbours. That said, Wim is deeply concerned for business.

"The biggest problem is not to my view the logistics services, it is the business itself... which is insufficiently prepared.. and as far as we know is the British are less prepared than the European side."

Preparations that many feel may have been in vain if the UK asks for another yet another extension in the coming days.

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