Guidance on hauliers picking up multiple loads issued

New guidance on hauliers picking up mixed food loads for transfer from Great Britain to Northern Ireland has been published.

The industry gave a cautious welcome to the Government advice.

The Northern Ireland Protocol keeps the country in line with EU trade rules and animal products require special certification.

A statement from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) said: “Freight volumes into Northern Ireland’s ports are at normal levels for this time of year and there have been no significant queues.

“We have always been clear that as the Northern Ireland Protocol is implemented we would work very closely with industry and DAERA (Stormont’s agriculture department) to improve ways of operating.

“Our new approach to the movement of mixed food loads into Northern Ireland, known as groupage, is more flexible and gives businesses further options as to how they meet the required SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) checks and we will continue to offer our support to hauliers and suppliers as this beds in.”

Agriculture departments in Northern Ireland and Great Britain have worked with hauliers to establish the new groupage model which will aid the movements of these loads into Northern Ireland.

Following successful trials with industry involving taking goods from Great Britain to Northern Ireland, two groupage models have been agreed.

Groupage means lorries in the rest of the UK picking up goods at multiple points for transit across the Irish Sea.

It is a common method of reducing delivery costs for smaller retailers.

Paperwork required due to the protocol had created problems with that because lorry containers were being opened and resealed multiple times.

Defra proposed two models, one using “consolidation hubs” in which all mixed products arrived at one premises, were consolidated and certified as a single unit then sealed.

The other, known as a “linear model”, meant every individual consignment like an individual pallet would be checked and sealed by a certifying officer before the haulier moved on to the next pick-up.

The consolidated load would be sealed at the final point of dispatch before leaving for the port.

Haulage industry body Logistics UK’s general manager of policy Alex Veitch said it followed pressure from the sector to ease the administrative burden after Brexit.

He said: “Logistics UK is cautiously optimistic that the solution proposed will help prevent delays, by reducing the number of vehicles needing to be inspected on arrival in Northern Ireland if administered correctly.

“The sector will continue to work closely with both Defra and DAERA as the scheme develops, because it is still untested for larger volumes of traffic and it is clear that further IT developments will be required as the system evolves.

“As the scheme expands, it will be vital for government to work closely with Great Britain companies sending goods to Northern Ireland to ensure they are fully briefed on how to prepare groupage loads of SPS goods for Northern Ireland.”