Customs say companies’ bad paperwork to blame for delays at ports

12 January 2021 –

Customs officials have denied goods are being held up at ports by post-Brexit red tape and blamed companies for failing to fill in paperwork correctly.

Revenue says that 76pc of goods were getting cleared within 30 minutes of ships arriving to Dublin Port on Tuesday morning, and that freight traffic is at record lows for this time of year.

“We have processed thousands of declarations,” said Tom Talbot, head of operations for customs at Dublin Port. “On Sunday, we had 40 trucks parked up in a port that has a normal traffic of 1.1 million freight vehicles through it.”

But one industry source says that drivers are being held up for hours or even days in Dublin Port over customs formalities, a situation that is being compounded by Covid-19 restrictions.

And Logistics UK, which represents UK drivers, retailers and manufacturers, says consignments of different goods that are “grouped” together in the same container are facing particular problems crossing the Irish Sea.

The head of the Irish Road Haulage Association, Eugene Drennan, says most of the delays are down to “cumbersome” IT systems and new rules that were not “tried and tested” in time.

“The biggest flaw in it all is that the Irish system does not talk to the English system,” Mr Drennan told the Irish Independent. “There might be no problem now because there are no goods. But it’s on the way.”

Food exporters need to send documents separately to Revenue, the Department of Agriculture and the HSE in order to clear all health and safety checks. They also need to notify Revenue 24 hours in advance of turning up at the port.

Revenue says around 30pc of goods have faced delays over the last two weeks because importers and exporters – not hauliers – failed to prepare for Brexit.

One driver turned up for health and safety clearance on Saturday with no paperwork, and had to wait 36 hours until a customs agent was available to provide it.

“That driver, it’s not fair on him to be turning up trying to justify to us what’s in [his consignment],” said Deirdre O’Brien, a principal environmental health officer with the HSE.

Sinn Féin’s foreign affairs spokesperson, John Brady, said there was “confusion and pending mayhem at Irish and British ports”.

“For 30 years, we have enjoyed the free movement of goods, now we have customs officers not quite sure how they should be handled,” Mr Brady said.

“If the congestion and confusion is not addressed, we will be running into supply chain difficulties very quickly here, in a matter of weeks at most.”

Mr Drennan has called for a temporary opt-out from EU rules – even for a couple of weeks – while they are trialled and phased in.

“Legally, we can’t do that,” said Mr Talbot “We talk about being guardians of what comes on to the market, from a product safety, from a food safety point of view.

“We want the EU to look on us and say there are no issues in Ireland and we have no worries about Ireland.”

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