Port Esbjerg preparing for EUxit by setting up a Border Inspection Post

EUxit is fast approaching, and extensive uncertainty remains as to what exactly it will involve. Port Esbjerg is preparing for a number of different scenarios and is currently building a BIP centre.

The first of July was a milestone for the EU and the UK. Prior to that date, the transition period during which the UK would be subject to the EU’s current set of rules could be extended by one or two years. It was not, and that means 1 January 2021 will be a landmark date. Either the EU and the UK will agree a trade deal on specific terms, or the UK will be considered a third country to the EU.

“We’re looking at a very uncertain course of events and some very complex negotiations. A lot can happen until the end of the year, and we simply don’t know, how things will pan out,” says Michael Svane, transport director at the Confederation of Danish Industry.

Danish exports are generally challenged these days, and the latest data from Statistics Denmark show a declining trend for the country’s exports to the UK. While total goods exports in 2017 amounted to DKK 53.7 billion, the 2019-figure was DKK 44.9 billion. In the period from the first half of 2019 to the first half of 2020, total exports fell by 32.4 per cent with dairy exports dropping 25.1 per cent.

Still, a few goods categories have increased during the past year. For example, meat exports, including Danish bacon, pork and pork rinds, are up by 9.7 per cent. 

“It’s definitely not an altogether positive outlook. I’m afraid we’ll have to get used to tough times ahead for our exports. Not least considering the state of the national economies post the coronavirus crisis”, says Svane.

While total goods exports in 2017 amounted to DKK 53.7 billion, the 2019-figure was DKK 44.9 billion. In the period from the first half of 2019 to the first half of 2020, total exports fell by 32.4 per cent.
 
In the period from the first half of 2019 to the first half of 2020, dairy exports dropping 25.1 per cent. Still, a few goods categories have increased during the past year. For example, meat exports, including Danish bacon, pork and pork rinds, are up by 9.7 per cent. 
 

Port Esbjerg preparing for a no-deal scenario

Corona or no corona, EUxit is just around the corner, and Port Esbjerg, traditionally the hub for Denmark’s trade with the UK and with consistently strong ties across the North Sea, has an important role to play when EUxit takes effect on 1 January 2021.

“Basically, EUxit will require top-level efficiency at the port, and, fortunately, they already have that down to a fine art. They’ll have to implement a new set of rules that’ll apply to the dealings between the UK and the EU. But it’ll also be important to stay alert to new opportunities without jeopardising your current base. In this context, it’ll probably be a good idea to be proactive and open to market opportunities in a joint effort with companies operating at the port”, says Svane.

In fact, that is precisely what Port Esbjerg is already preparing for. By January, the Danish Customs Agency and the Danish Veterinary and Food Administration will have moved into new offices at Zodiaksvej at the port of Esbjerg. As part of its preparations for EUxit – however it may unfold – Port Esbjerg has applied for a building permit for a BIP, a Border Inspection Post.

The new building will have office facilities for both government agencies which will have three inspection areas regarding imports from third countries. When the transition period runs out, the UK may be considered a third country to the EU and therefore subject to entirely different customs and food import rules.

“We’re preparing for a no-deal situation in 2021, and we expect a lot from the new BIP. It means we’ll have a new service at the port, and we’ll be able to receive goods from third countries. Obviously, that’ll open up for new opportunities. Right now, our focus is on the UK, of course, but it means that we’ll also be able to target China or South America,” explains Port Esbjerg CEO Dennis Jul Petersen. 

Visualization of the BIP center at the Port of Esbjerg, which will be completed at the end of the year.
 

The right choice

According to Svane, setting up a BIP centre is the right way forward for Port Esbjerg.

“Nothing ventured, nothing gained. I strongly believe this is the right decision. It’s a bold choice that’ll give Port Esbjerg opportunities to attract business from third countries. I’m saying this not least because Port Esbjerg’s climate agenda shows that this is a port with special capabilities. In other words, they have concrete ambitions, and that alone means they’re off to a good start,” Svane concludes.

 “We’re looking at a very uncertain course of events and some very complex negotiations. A lot can happen until the end of the year, and we simply don’t know, how things will pan out,” says Michael Svane, transport director at the Confederation of Danish Industry. Photo: Danish Industry.
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