Smart freight system will not be ready by 1 January

London, UK: The government has told Logistics UK that the Smart Freight system will not be ready for 1 January 2021.

The Smart Freight System is the key centre piece to avoid congestion triggered by new customs checks at key ports such as Dover when UK leaves the EU single market at the end of December.

The government told Logistics UK that the system will go into beta testing in mid-December and will not be be completed until April. The logistics industry has warned government that forcing businesses to use a new IT system to process billions of pounds of exports before it has been fully tested has the potential for chaos.

Elizabeth de Jong, director of policy, Logistics UK said: “To find out, with only 14 weeks to go, that there will not be a ready, workable solution for those moving goods to the EU is a massive blow to UK businesses and the economy.

“The government needs to understand the complexity of the UK’s highly interconnected logistics industry and the amount of co-ordination required in order to use Smart Freight, and prioritise the allocation of more resource to deliver the system on time, to protect the UK’s supply chain.”

So far only one site, in Ashford, Kent, has been bought by the government to hold lorries in the event of congestion. The recently acquired Mojo site will hold 2,000 of the expected 7,000 trucks, according to a government planning document seen by the Guardian newspaper. Other sites under consideration are Manston airport, which can hold 4,000 lorries, and the Waterbrook site behind the Mojo site which can hold 950 freight units.

The scale of the challenge facing the government is clear from the document which notes that “26 government departments and public authorities have either operational and/or policy responsibilities in relation to the border, using over 100 IT systems between them”. It adds that “currently there are legal, technical and cultural barriers hindering effective information sharing between these organisations” with an amendment in the trade bill to enable data sharing.

Trucks crossing the border will encounter a range of authorities with Home Office requirements on passports and visas for incoming drivers, Department for Transport checks for driver permits, HM Revenue & Customs for potential tariffs and customs declarations, and the Department for the Environment responsible for animal and food safety checks.

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