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Covid-19 crisis emphasises the key role of freight forwarders, says logistics association

The crisis caused by Covid-19 is delivering greater understanding of the key role of freight forwarders to the authorities and the wider audience that rely on the commodities being delivered through international supply chains, says the director general of the British International Freight Association (BIFA), Robert Keen.

“Whilst BIFA has always sought greater recognition of the importance of freight forwarders to the UK’s international trade, for the most part, our members have been happy to stay behind the scenes, acting as the invisible hand of international shipping, says Keen.

“Now in these very difficult times, the important role of the freight transport sector is taking centre stage and being recognised.”

Behind the scenes BIFA has continued its lobbying activities with the UK Government and is pleased by the pragmatic solutions that have been achieved to date, such as the temporary easements relating to the opening hours of temporary storage facilities, which have been announced following an approach to HMRC by BIFA on behalf of its members

The UK Customs authority is giving operators of temporary storage facilities as much flexibility as they possibly can by treating requests to amend a facility’s opening hours as a temporary variation to the existing approved hours rather than a formal amendment to an approval.

Also, mirroring domestic easements regarding VAT, BIFA is pressing for similar easements to be introduced for import VAT.

Keen adds: “Further recognition for our sector came last week with an official statement in Parliament in which the government acknowledged that international freight services such as shipping and haulage are vital for ensuring the continuity of supply chains.

“It also recognised that individuals working on transport systems through which supply chains pass are key workers.

“Whilst the definition is somewhat open to interpretation, and it is not entirely clear who would monitor and adjudicate eligibility, many employees of the freight forwarding companies that are members of BIFA would be deemed as key workers.

“This does not only cover the obvious candidates such as collection and delivery drivers, and warehouse operatives. It also includes staff such as customs entry clerks, and others behind the scenes, not handling the cargo, who are nonetheless key to the successful operation of supply chains.

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