Since 1st January 2022, imports from the EU must be processed using the Goods Vehicle Movement Service (GVMS). Here we will be looking at the impact of the new controls.
What is the Goods Vehicle Movement Service?
The Goods Vehicle Movement Service (GVMS) is a border control system that came into force on the 1st of January 2022, meaning import declarations are now required at the point of entry for all goods entering Britain from the EU. This system is part of the government’s measures to deal with post-Brexit trade between Britain and the EU.
Hauliers who move goods through a port in the UK that uses the Goods Vehicle Movement Service will need to register for the service in order to get the goods through customs.
The ports that use the GVMS need pre-lodged declaration references to be linked together within a single goods movement reference.
How is this disrupting UK supply chains?
The Goods Vehicle Movement Service is the latest hurdle that businesses trading between the UK and EU have to face as a result of Brexit.
Since the introduction of the GVMS, hauliers have encountered setbacks such as shipments not loading on the system and reference codes not being accepted due to IT errors, rather than businesses not adhering to regulations. This is resulting in significant disruption and additional charges for vehicles that can’t get to the UK.
New data suggests that dwell times at UK ports have doubled as a result of the new customs controls, with shippers spending an average of over seven days discharging at British ports at the start of this year, compared to the 3.6 days spent on average last April. This is also higher than the average dwell times at European ports, which is around 5 days.
This means that UK supply chains that do business with EU suppliers will have to wait longer to receive shipments than they would previously, resulting in delays to production and lengthier fulfilment times for the customer.
Is the Goods Vehicle Movement Service entirely to blame for the hold-ups?
Unite, a union representing drivers, believes the full customs controls are to blame for the hold-ups at the ports, and that it is taking 10 to 20 minutes for each driver to clear the necessary checks, despite having the correct paperwork. In fact, noncompliance with the GVMS is believed to be down to single digits.
Unite believe that adequate preparations for the changes were not made, such as an increased number of customs agents to process the extra paperwork and expanded facilities for drivers who were held up in checks.
However, the government have denied that border checks are to blame for the hold-up, suggesting that ferry maintenance was instead the cause of delays, with three ships being refitted at the time and “higher than expected freight volumes”.
Will this continue to be a problem?
There were fears that Brexit would lead to UK businesses being restricted by red tape, especially when it comes to dealing with EU businesses, and the GVMS seems to have confirmed some of these fears. However, the current problems may eventually prove to be ‘teething problems’ that will alleviate over time.
While it looks like the new controls are having an impact on the port dwelling times, other factors such as the ship refitting will have also had an effect that should be lessened once the work is completed, although many businesses may be playing catch-up for a while.
More investment in port infrastructure would also help to streamline the importing process, which we may see if delays continue, especially as commercial trade and tourism increase in the near future.
The Goods Vehicle Movement Service is just one factor that UK supply chains are going to have to adapt to in a post-Brexit world. While the delays at UK ports may ease off, this is another lesson in the importance of regular risk assessment and building resilience within the supply chain.
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