'Bulls**t Money-Making' Slammed as UK Ports Reportedly Set 'Customs Clearance Fees' to Recoup Losses

CC BY 2.0 / Marcus Meissner / Dover ferry portDover port, England
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In late April the UK government confirmed it would not impose physical sanitary checks on agri-food imports from the EU, originally due to have started on 1 July. Controls were to be pushed back to the end of 2023 in light of the government’s reluctance to “impose new administrative burdens and risk disruption at ports and to supply chains".
Ports across the UK are charging customers new additional fees, which have been denounced as no more than a “money-making” scheme, The Loadstar reported.
The so-called “customs clearance fees” introduced at ports in London, Tilbury, Southampton, and Teesport range from £17 to £25 per entry. The move, according to sources cited by the B2B supply chain publication, is “an attempt to recoup revenues” lost by border control posts after the government delayed phytosanitary procedures.
Southampton and DP World have purportedly gone even farther, charging a levy of £11 per removal, with a source describing it as an “insurance against cost of examinations”.

“One client is paying eight to 12 times on a single container – having 30 a month, they’re paying £6,000 a month without ever having an examination”, the insider was quoted as saying.

“It’s fair to charge one per box, but not one per entry. Smaller players with smaller loads are picking up the lion’s share of costs”, the insider added.
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A fee schedule reportedly set in place by Destin8 - the port community system for London Container Terminal, Greenock, Seaforth and Teesport – requires shippers to pay around £25.45 per entry.
Community Network Services (CNS), which operates the port system for DP World London Gateway as well as DP World Southampton, is said to have levied a fee of £18.74 for a customs examination per entry. It reportedly also applies removal fees.

‘Money-Making Exercise’

According to the report, the entire scheme is a sham, as sources suggest the percentage of shipments undergoing examinations is less than one percent.
According to one insider, there was “not a single examination in the whole of 2021”.

“In reality, it is a bulls**t money-making exercise, as there are no examinations, it’s probably aimed at recovering port development costs”, the sources claimed.

The ports resorted to the new fees in response to the government’s decision in late April to scrap the implementation of phytosanitary controls in July, the outlet writes.
Port authorities, which invested millions in developing and rolling out the border control check points, were left facing losses.
According to the report, the Port of Liverpool sank no less than £4m into its new border control post project.
“We need to know what the government is going to do after it largely pulled the rug on a network of brand new, high-spec BCPs that look unlikely to be used and cost ports millions”, a source was cited as saying by the publication.
The insider added:

“Ports will need to recover the BCP maintenance and skeleton operating costs somehow, so I wouldn’t be surprised if charges are passed on to traders or the shipping industry”.

On 28 April, the UK government announced that it would not impose physical sanitary checks on agri-food (animals, animal products, plants and plant products) imports to the country from the EU, originally due to have started on 1 July in line with the post-Brexit Border Operating Model schedule.
Physical checks on dairy had been slated for 1 September, with all remaining foods, including fish and composite foods, to be subject to checks from 1 November.
Instead, import controls were to be delayed until late 2023 in the light of the government’s reluctance to “impose new administrative burdens and risk disruption at ports and to supply chains at this point”.
At the time, Tim Morris, chief executive of the UK Major Ports Group, was cited by the Financial Times as warning that port operators feared the facilities they had built would become "highly bespoke white elephants”.
Furthermore, the British Veterinary Association said the government’s move “flies in the face” of ministers’ commitment to preserving high levels of animal and human health in the UK.
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The government argued it would use the time to move towards digitising customs and sanitary checks on EU imports. The approach would purportedly be part of the 2025 Border Strategy, including the UK Single Trade Window digital initiative aimed at helping UK traders move goods globally with greater ease.
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