Scottish seafood companies exporting their produce to Europe are suffering further delays, as red tape and logistical issues continue to hamper post-Brexit trading arrangements.
The transport company that deals with the movement of most Scottish seafood products – Danish shipping firm DFDS – has cancelled its groupage export service until next Monday, January 18.
The service, which deals with goods dispatched by several different companies into the same load, has been suspended since January 8.
It means exporters are unable to obtain the necessary paperwork before lorries laden with fresh seafood can travel to DFDS’ warehouse in Larkhall, South Lanarkshire, where batches of seafood are consolidated into truckloads for onward travel to English Channel ports and then transported to northern France.
“We are very thankful for the patience our customers have shown, knowing the painful situation the backlog has put them in.”DFDS Statement
DFDS said it was “thankful” for the patience shown by its customers and understood the “painful situation the backlog has put them in”.
The Groupage Export Service, when it resumes on Monday, will not be an overnight service; rather goods will take two nights from arrival at Larkhall to reach the French market.
DFDS said: “We will resume Groupage Export Service on a day one for day three service beginning January 18 which means goods collected or delivered to Larkhall on day one will arrive in Boulogne on day three.
“We will throughout the week contact each affected customer advising on current status to resume exporting their goods and we will continue to make every effort to assist those requiring support.
“By working together we aim to have a robust service running very soon again.”
The development comes amid a tumultuous few weeks for Scotland’s seafood sector after France temporarily closed its border with the UK days before Christmas amid concerns over a new strain of Covid-19.
Earlier this month, dozens of Scottish lorries were held up in queues at Larkhall and Dunkirk, northern France, over IT problems and customs barcodes.
The Scottish Seafood Association, which represents processors, warned last week the problem was likely to get worse as the pace of trade increases.
“The catastrophe that our seafood exporters are facing right now is absolutely shameful and disgraceful.”Nicola Sturgeon MSP, First Minister
First Minister Nicola Sturgeon said post-Brexit delays to seafood exports are “shameful and disgraceful” and accused the UK Government of failing to resolve the issue.
She said: “The catastrophe that our seafood exporters are facing right now is absolutely shameful and disgraceful.
“But for the crisis of Covid that we’re living through right now, I am sure this would be dominating the headlines every single day.”
She also said the UK Government had failed to give exporters enough time to understand the implications of the new rules.
One of Scotland’s top salmon exporters last week accused the UK Government of “gross incompetence” over new Brexit rules.
Victoria Leigh-Pearson, sales director at Aberdeen-based John Ross, said in a strongly-worded letter to business secretary Alok Sharma that the last few months have been the company’s hardest in 30 years.
A UK Government spokeswoman said: “We are working closely with the industry to help understand and address the issues they are experiencing, including contacting exporters, their representatives and transporters to advise on the requirements for keeping their goods moving.
“The Scottish Government cannot abdicate their responsibilities to Scottish businesses. Over the past 18 months they have assured the fishing industry that the systems they were putting in place would be adequate. They clearly are not.
“The Scottish Government need to step up and ensure there are no delays to food exports being checked at hubs in their area.
“We have given the Scottish Government nearly £200m to prepare for leaving the EU, to minimise disruption and guarantee business readiness.”