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January a “grace period” to fine-tune post-Brexit procedures, Belgian port boss says

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The head of a major European gateway for trade with Britain said yesterday that new customs clearance procedures would only be truly tested over the next fortnight as traffic returns to normal.

Tom Hautekiet likened preparations to “preparing for a hurricane” as the results were unexpected but said there has been a lull linked to the end of the transition period on December 31 and the holiday season.

Hautekiet said the port had worked with shipping companies, customs and police to develop a computerized system that only allows drivers to enter the terminal if their customs documents have been filled properly.

He said two waiting areas had been designated within the port for those who needed time to put themselves in line with the new rules.

Hautekiet said the recent closure of the French port of Calais imposed by French authorities because of fears of a new strain of COVID-19 allowed Zeebrugge to test if it could cope with a surge in traffic.

He also noted the new requirements came in force at one the year’s least busy times.

“It’s a perfect date: the first of January because it’s a very calm period of the year,” said Hautekiet who heads the Port of Zeebrugge, which conducts 38 percent of its activities with Britain.

Britain left the EU’s orbit on January 1, just days after clinching a last-gasp divorce treaty under which there are no tariffs or quotas on the movement of goods originating in the United Kingdom and the EU.

With Britain leaving the EU’s customs union and single market, companies now have to complete customs declarations for their products to go through the border.

via Reuters

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