The largest port in Europe It faces a complicated challenge: have everything ready in case of a hard Brexit. 8% of the EU's trade with the United Kingdom passes through the Rotterdam docks: around 40 million tonnes of products per year. The UK's departure from the EU will mean an increase in import tariffs for goods, and with them, there can be a drop of up to 40% of trade between both parties in this Dutch enclave. The port would lose between 2% 4% of its long-term operations, according to estimates. In view of the long and exhausting duel in which negotiations have become, he prepares for a wild Brexit and hurry the days that are left until March 29, even if the customs union is maintained until 2020.
The port covers an area of 12,713 hectares -between land and water-, and it takes more than an hour to travel from one dock to another by coach. Ordered, clean, and colossal, it employs 385,000 people, directly and indirectly, and accounts for 6.2% of Dutch GDP, according to the Erasmus University in Rotterdam. The total volume of tons accounted for in 2018 amounted to 469 million. It is one of the engines of the national economy and avoid delays or customs clogs of trucks that arrive from all over Europe to ship the merchandise has become an obsession.
"If you do not prepare, you do not cross," pray the leaflets published in eight languages, including Turkish, Polish, Russian, Bulgarian and Romanian, intended for transporters whose trucks travel full of products, many perishable, to their British customers. Maybe it sounds rough, but there are some 600,000 vehicles a year, according to port calculations, and reviewing your documentation now costs a couple of minutes. With the Brexit, the procedures can be extended up to 20 minutes and congest the accesses.
"Cooperation will be essential and we hope that both sides have their papers in order. We will expedite the procedures to avoid delays on the way to the United Kingdom. To do this, we use Portbase, a mandatory registration system which must include the reservation of the date of travel by the transport company, the declaration of the nature of the cargo at the customs and the corresponding certificates. It can be done over the Internet, but without this procedure the truck will not be able to enter the ferry from the Netherlands, "says Mark Dijk, external affairs manager of the port. Speak on board the ship that has chartered for a representation of the foreign press to get an idea of the changes that are coming.
Despite the warnings, It is expected that during the first six or eight weeks there will be rejections of merchandise in the terminals. Some 35,000 Dutch companies do business with the United Kingdom and embark in Rotterdam, and those that do not submit the writings will need a place to wait until they complete them. "We have created five temporary parking lots to the north and south of the port. After those weeks, we assume that everyone will be up to date. We can not influence the Brexit. We can only collaborate so that the trade does not stop, "adds Dijk. The day is bright and the next stop is one of the esplanades arranged as parking, already marked and bounded. The docks seem a distant place, but they are next door, and it is a matter of avoiding long queues in the merchant access carts. A road collapse would alter all services.
All these steps should also be carried out on the British side, and the fear of a blockage of consumer goods, from food to products of the chemical or pharmaceutical industry, is filling the warehouses of the port of Rotterdam. The aim is to avoid shortages if documents are not submitted on time, and Neele-Vat, one of the largest logistics and transport companies in the area, has seen a 500% increase in visits from the United Kingdom in the last six months. "Most customers do not want to run out of stock in case of hard Brexit. They want to keep supplying their customers, and the current uncertainty is the worst, "says Cuno Vat, director of the firm. The warehouse that shows has the size of 10 football fields and is at full capacity.
Time will tell if the fears are well founded, but while the negotiations continue, the port of Rotterdam shows its motto: "We hope for the best, and we prepare for the worst".
Travelers from the Schengen area, the 26 EU countries that have abolished passport controls, are no longer asked if they have anything to declare. However, as soon as the internal border is imposed, the Dutch Customs Services estimate that they will have to check 15,500 ships and more than 10 million additional passengers each year. Nanette van Schelven, its general director, predicts that they will have 40% more customers, "and we need more staff: about 900 customs officers in total". "The main thing is that companies have licenses, but doubts about the final regulation persist," he adds.
Liesbeth Kooijman, head of the import inspection of the Food Safety and Consumer Service, has a similar problem. It requires about 150 new inspectors and veterinarians, "which we will recruit in southern and eastern Europe, because we do not have enough."