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British International Freight Association

BIFA offers guidance for business life after lockdown

The British International Freight Association (BIFA) has published a guidance blueprint on the steps businesses should be taking in order to facilitate a return to work once the current lockdown restrictions are eased by the Government.

BIFA says that whilst it was difficult to provide precise answers to the many questions it has received from members because there are numerous variables to consider, it has outlined a series of measures companies should consider.

It says that the safe return of all staff to work must be the primary concern of all employers, but also acknowledges that there may be some preliminary concerns.

The guidance blueprint outlines what should be reviewed, such as cargo handling procedures, the provision of PPE, and a ‘staggered’ start-up of business depending on how premises can function under social distancing and office layouts.

Robert Keen, Director General at BIFA, said: “It is likely that the post-lockdown situation will be an evolving picture and it is important that companies monitor staff feedback and ongoing government advice/regulation to adjust their initial policies and procedures as applicable. Any procedural changes will have to be promptly advised to staff and implementation monitored.

“We obviously wish all our members a successful return to work and will assist wherever we can. Salutary lessons can be learned from recent experiences, and all seem to agree that greater resilience and flexibility will have to be built into business processes, and there will have to be new realities about areas such as credit control procedures and the level of cash reserves held by businesses.”

Click here to read advisory document in full.

BIFA welcomes new customs declarations processing system

The British International Freight Association (BIFA) notes that the implementation timetable on the new computer system that will replace an existing system used for processing Customs declarations is under review by the programme implementation board.

BIFA Director General, Robert Keen says that speculative comments on social media have caused further uncertainty among its members that are responsible for processing Customs declarations and moving much of the UK’s visible trade.

Keen stated: “In 2019, when HMRC announced its proposed plan for completing delivery of the new Customs Declaration System (CDS) and migrating traders from CHIEF to the new platform, we expressed the view, shared with CSPs and other software developers, that the timetable would be challenging.

“Having made further representations via the programme board seeking clarifications on behalf of our members, we are reassured to hear that it is HMRC’s intention to implement dual-running of both systems until the Department is confident that the new system is fully developed, stable and tested. HMRC appears intent on having IT systems and Customs processes in place that will not compromise the integrity of the border, or the flow of international trade.

“However, we don’t think that it would be appropriate to comment further until there is an official government announcement on the matter with regard to the changeover from CHIEF to CDS and the appropriate timeframes.”

BIFA says that from the forwarder and customs agent’s viewpoint, the key statement made by the Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, the Rt Hon Michael Gove on the 10th February was that frontier customs and other regulatory checks would be reintroduced on EU trade after the end of the transition period lasting until 31st December 2020.  This would mean that importers bringing goods from the EU and exporters sending goods to the EU would have to submit customs declarations and face goods checks at the UK border.  The inevitable consequence is that similar requirements would be imposed at the EU frontier,

Keen added: “The Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Michael Gove has clearly stated that full import Customs declarations would have to be submitted – there is to be no differentiation between regulatory procedures for imports/exports between the UK and EU and Rest of the World.” 

BIFA reiterated comments made by others that there is insufficient infrastructure and information in place at present to support the lodgement of import safety and security checks.  In fact, BIFA members regard this as the most significant customs-related issue to facilitating the flow of goods to and from the EU

BIFA is also seeking clarification on whether postponed VAT accounting will be introduced on import consignments, as this is another area that is causing concerns for its members due to the need to fund the increased guarantees required to underpin duty deferment accounts.  This change will help make the UK more competitive in international trade and improve our World Bank ratings.

Keen added that with the UK now outside the EU, and the transitional period which ends on the 31st December 2020 underway the development of the new core Customs Declaration System is only one part of what is now a much bigger jigsaw.

Whilst having significant concerns regarding certain elements of the outcome of Brexit, BIFA says it is glad that there is now clear outline clarity with regard to Brexit and will work via its Member Institutions with Government to ensure as successful an outcome as possible.  Regarding CDS, there has been clear progress recently and HMRC is now fully engaged with key stakeholders, a development that is to be welcomed.

UK freight association names policy and compliance officer

The British International Freight Association (BIFA) has confirmed the appointment of David Stroud as its policy and compliance adviser with responsibility for logistics issues relating to air freight, security and sustainable logistics.

David Stroud is a highly experienced industry professional and has held senior management roles with DHL Global Forwarding, Tigers Global Logistics and NNR Global Logistics. Much of his career has involved air freight and aviation security issues.

In his new position at BIFA, he will be replacing Mike Jones, who is taking on the responsibilities of  Colin Young, BIFA’s regional consultant for London West and South West, who retired earlier this year.

Stroud will be working alongside Robert Windsor, executive director and Pawal Jarza, policy & compliance advisor (Customs matters) in BIFA’s Policy & Compliance department. He also becomes the manager of BIFA’s Air Policy Group.

BIFA director general Robert Keen said: “We welcome David and are sure that his experience working for some of the world’s leading freight forwarding and logistics companies over the last 30 years will help our policy and compliance department to fulfil its role of providing effective representation and support for BIFA members within the broader context of the UK and international freight services industry.”

Freight forwarders ask: Is the government listening?

Few companies have registered for a new government online system designed to protect value added tax revenues on foreign parcels in the event of a no-deal Brexit, leading the UK representative body for freight forwarding and logistics companies to question whether Government is listening to advice from industry experts.

Robert Keen, Director General of the British International Freight Association (BIFA), said: “We are not surprised that few companies have signed up for the scheme.

“In principle, the UK’s VAT policy on small parcels, relative mainly to e-commerce trade, expatriates the liability for UK import VAT to businesses that are not established in the UK, thereby significantly reducing HMRC’s ability to enforce VAT compliance and revenue collection; potentially forcing freight forwarders and customs agents to become indirect representatives liable for import VAT and other import charges.

“BIFA and its Customs Policy Group advised HMRC that this would not work in practice, but that advice appears to have been ignored.

“This is not the first time and several recent policy announcements have caused us significant concerns relative to the UK’s Brexit preparations.

“Earlier this year we expressed our concerns privately about the contradictory information on the use of EORI numbers when completing customs entries post-Brexit. The initial guidance was that they could be used, late in the day the decision was reversed, and trade was advised that this was not possible and that EU traders would have to register and obtain a UK EORI number.

“We have also aired our concerns publicly about Transitional Simplified Procedures (TSP), the Government’s flagship policy aimed at alleviating the congestion at the frontier and facilitating the work of customs agents. We are still lacking detail of the data required to complete the supplementary declaration despite the fact that the original Brexit date has long since passed.

“We are still uncertain whether the proposed TSP procedures will work, post October 31st, when systems are largely untried, communication links between the parties involved on the processes are not established, many remain unaware of their responsibilities, and the freight forwarding companies that are at the heart of international trade movements appear to be excluded from them.”

As an apolitical body, BIFA’s says its policy for many years has been to work positively with government departures and provide constructive criticism and practical suggestions as to how to improve policies, where it is deemed appropriate.

However, it says Brexit has highlighted differences between government policy and the sector of the economy that is responsible for managing the supply chains that underpin the UK’s visible international trade, sometimes straining the relationship and, on occasion, resulting in Government consultation that has been rushed and led to some public policy announcements being made before they have been fully thought through.

Keen concluded: “To date, BIFA has refrained from publicly criticising Government departments. However, recent policy announcements have caused us significant concerns relative to the UK’s Brexit preparations and we feel it appropriate to highlight areas where planning needs considerable improvement.

“We echo the recent words of the Public Accounts Committee chair Meg Hillier and agree that with less than four months to go before the UK is expected to leave the EU, momentum appears to have slowed in Whitehall. Departments must listen to trade associations such as BIFA, urgently step up their preparations and ensure that the country is ready.”

Image by koon boh Goh from Pixabay

BIFA welcomes customs training deadline extension

The British International Freight Association (BIFA) has welcomed the Government’s decision to extend the deadline for businesses to apply for funding towards training courses that help them to complete customs declarations.

The funding was initially revealed in December 2018, and it was recently announced that the deadline for applications would be extended to May 31st 2019.

Grants are being made available for all customs intermediaries and traders completing customs declarations with the aim of supporting training and the upgrade of IT systems.

Robert Keen, director general of BIFA, said: “This scheme is intended to help support the extra demand for customs brokerage services associated with the UK’s departure from the EU, as well as issues associated with the replacement of the current system used to process customs entries.

“During our meetings with both HM Treasury and HMRC, BIFA highlighted the concerns of our members regarding the capability of the Customs brokerage sector to increase capacity, at a time when that sector already faces a shortage of staff of suitable quality.

“We emphasised that it could take up to a year to train staff to be fully conversant to prepare a range of basic Customs declarations, even if there was a sufficient number of trainers to train those staff, as well as relevant courses for them to attend.

“So, the news of an extension to the deadline for this funding is very welcome, and we are encouraging our members who believe they might benefit to apply; if they have not done so already.”

More information and grant applications can be found at: https://www.gov.uk

Freight trade welcomes HMRC’s ‘no deal’ TSP extension

The British International Freight Association (BIFA) has welcomed the decision by HMRC to extend Transitional Simplified Procedures (TSP) in the event of a no-deal Brexit.

“Having criticised HMRC when it originally published its Transitional Simplified Procedures in February, we now welcome the news that, in the event of a no-deal Brexit, the date when the first supplementary customs declarations must be submitted, and any import duties must be paid, has been extended to October 4,” said Robert Keen, director general of BIFA. 

“We also welcome the news that TSP will be available for any port or airport where goods are being brought into the UK from the EU, not just ro-ro ports.

“But most importantly, we are pleased that HMRC has agreed to allow freight forwarders to operate TSP on behalf of their clients.”

Following the original announcement about TSP in February, BIFA, along with other associations, lobbied hard with HMRC. 

BIFA said the that it understood some of the easements contained in the TSP may make it easier for new applicants to obtain these authorisations.

But it also explained that there did not appear to be equivalent liberalisation of the regimes for existing holders, such as freight forwarders, despite the fact that they are the businesses that are most likely to be fully prepared to operate TSP.

The extension addresses the fact that the original documentation was skewed in favour of new applicants for authorisations and actually discriminated against existing holders, particularly relating to special procedures.

BIFA understands that HMRC’s original aim of publishing the Transitional Simplified Procedures in the event of a non-deal Brexit was to make importing easier by simplifying the declarations at the border and postponing the payment of import duties that would otherwise be due.

The new extension announced by HMRC provides more time to make the necessary preparations, fully test the systems, establish the communication links between the parties involved in the processes, and make sure that everyone concerned is aware of their responsibilities.

Keen concludes: “This is a very significant easement of policy and one for which BIFA, amongst others, lobbied hard to ensure all modes were treated equally. It should be noted that much confusion and effort could have been saved if Government had consulted with the trade in the first place.

“By allowing freight forwarders to operate TSP, the extension recognises the critical role that the freight forwarder plays as an intermediary in the UK’s supply chain.”

BIFA hosts inaugural Young Freight Forwarders Network event

The British International Freight Association (BIFA) has launched a new networking group, the BIFA Young Forwarders Network (YFN).

Aimed at supporting individuals that have recently joined the logistics sector, the event, which was co-hosted with Outsource, part of the Seetec Group, was timed to link with the 12th National Apprenticeship Week (NAW 2019).

“The turnout for the launch event was excellent and the participants seemed genuinely keen to have the opportunity to network with their peers and learn from industry professionals,” said Carl Hobbis, BIFA’s training development manager.

Nichola Hay, director Outsource, added: “Outsource is supporting BIFA to make these events happen. This is a major step forward for the industry in developing its future freight forwarding ambassadors and leaders. Through these networks, young people will improve their knowledge of the sector, trends, as well as build their skill set and learn from others.”

Hobbis added: “The idea of the YFN is to create several regional networking groups, run by young forwarders and designed to help early talent and young BIFA members develop their knowledge and professional skills, but in a more social environment.

“The next event on April 11th will see the launch of the BIFA YFN regional group in the north west, during which participants will be provided with more details about the network and given an opportunity to discuss how they would like the north west regional group to work moving forward.”

The event is open to all: employers, apprentices, graduates or those new to the industry, talking place at The Botanist, Alderley Edge from 15:00 to 18:00.

More information can be found here: https://www.eventbrite.com/e/bifa-young-forwarders-network-north-west-launch-tickets-56707342187

BIFA Customs-related training courses now CPD accredited

The British International Freight Association (BIFA) has secured Continuous Professional Development (CPD) accreditation for both of its Customs-related training courses.

CPD accreditation is one of the highest standards for both academic and practical qualifications, ensuring teaching and learning remain up to date.

Carl Hobbis, BIFA’s training development manager, said: “Getting your courses CPD accredited to prove that they have a structured, practical and methodical approach is essential.

“It indicates to employers and HR practitioners that the courses have reached a certain standard. It gives them confidence that by sending their staff on one of our courses those employees will be obtaining and developing the skills to maintain a sustainable and competitive advantage.

“As you would expect, we have seen a massive surge in Customs training enquiries so to have both courses accredited is fantastic news. We also have our one-day Introduction to Import and Export course accredited and will also have accreditation for all apprentice activities as well, such as behind-the-scene tours and networking events.”

BIFA launches freight forwarding apprenticeship drive

The British International Freight Association (BIFA) has launched a website to help both employers and recruits to better understand apprenticeship opportunities in the freight forwarding industry.

The development follows last year’s introduction of the International Freight Forwarding Specialist apprenticeship, which aims to provide more opportunities for young people in the industry.

The microsite includes case studies containing tips all from the experiences of BIFA members and their apprentices. There are also range of materials for employers including information about funding and hiring.

Advice for apprentices includes highlighting a myriad of career pathways as well as information about the International Freight Forwarding Specialist Apprenticeship scheme. It aims to help those seeking apprenticeships in freight forwarding and be a resource to find opportunities.

Carl Hobbis, BIFA’s Training Development Manager, said: “Having been actively involved in the creation of the apprenticeship, BIFA has committed to promote the availability of the new apprenticeship and encourage employers and potential entrants to consider this apprenticeship as a route into the industry.”

“After meeting with various employers, BIFA wanted to provide a support system that means its members have the accessible resources to enable them to confidently reach out and engage with local communities. The website aims to be a basis of materials to support them in doing so.”

“One of the big attractions of choosing a career in freight forwarding is the different pathways that your career could take you. On the microsite, visitors can read a range of case studies from established BIFA members which demonstrate some of those fascinating career paths. They can also see top tips from existing apprentices as to why an apprenticeship should be considered.”

The initiative follows BIFA’s recent addition of an apprentice category into the trade association’s annual Freight Service Awards competition, which was created to encourage and reward high standards and professionalism and represent the ultimate recognition of special achievement.

Robert Keen, BIFA’s Director General, said: “In 2018, freight apprenticeships came to the fore, and there has already been significant interest from both employers and candidates.

“If you need guidance to cut through all of the red-tape, the website provides a range of assets that can be used for attending careers or local community days, clarity on funding benefits and practical tips that can create a better chance of hiring the best talent.”

BIFA: £8m funding for customs training ‘very welcome’

The British International Freight Association (BIFA) has welcomed the recent news of an £8 million government funding scheme for customs intermediaries and traders.

Grants have been made available for all customs intermediaries and traders completing customs declarations. The aim of the grants is to support training and the upgrade of IT systems.

According to BIFA, the government has actively engaged with freight forwarders, independent customs brokers, and fast parcel operators in order to understand the needs and challenges industry bodies face in supporting current and future clients.

This scheme is intended to help support the extra demand for customs brokerage services associated with the UK’s departure from the EU, as well as issues associated with the replacement of the current system used to process customs entries.

Robert Keen, director general of BIFA said: “During our meetings with both HM Treasury and HMRC, BIFA highlighted the concerns of our members regarding the capability of the Customs brokerage sector to increase capacity, at a time when that sector already faces a shortage of staff of suitable quality.

“We emphasised that it could take up to a year to train staff to be fully conversant to prepare a range of basic Customs declarations, even if there was a sufficient number of trainers to train those staff, as well as relevant courses for them to attend. So, the news of this funding is very welcome.”

The grant includes HMRC providing an investment of £3 million to fund increasing training capacity.

BIFA also notes that the grants include £2 million to fund training for intermediaries and traders completing customs declarations (or intending to complete customs declarations in the future). The grant will provide funding for up to 50% of the cost of training staff.

There is also £3 million available in IT improvement funding, available to small and medium sized employers in the customs intermediaries sector currently completing customs declarations on behalf of importers and exporters. The grant will fund investment in packaged software that increases the automation and productivity of completing customs declarations.

BIFA is encouraging those who believe they might benefit to apply early. Applications will close on 5 April 2019, or earlier once all the funding is allocated.

More information and grant applications can be found at: GOV.UK

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