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Steve Parker Director General, BIFA

Celebrating excellence in turbulent times

In his regular Freight Industry Times column, Steve Parker recaps on a successful BIFA awards lunch before addressing Red Sea concerns, BTOM rollout and forwarders’ training.

This column was written just after our Awards lunch, which was a hugely successful event attended by over 550 individuals who enjoyed an afternoon of networking and celebration of service excellence. Personally, I love these events as a chance to meet, to network, to renew friendships and even make new ones. If you attended, I hope you enjoyed the day. If you did not attend, make sure you put next year’s awards luncheon in your diary: it’s 16 January 2025.

The Red Sea

Whilst the Awards were good news, I cannot avoid mentioning the bad news that is happening in the Red Sea as I write. I know it is impacting many businesses greatly, and although BIFA can have very little effect on actual events, one of our pillars of activity is representation and we are doing that at every opportunity. Whether that is through providing direct advice to members about associated issues such as insurance and surcharges, or supporting our global organisation FIATA with its lobbying and networking, we are calling for openness and transparency, pushing for visibility on the costs incurred and seeking reliable information on the inevitable delays.


As I completed this column, the UK’s new Border Target Operating Model (BTOM) entered into force, ushering in a new series of risk-based checks on goods entering Britain from the EU. The changes are the first in a phased approach. On 30 April, border checks are due to begin on goods entering the UK, while a new requirement for safety and security declarations on EU imports is due to come into effect 31 October.

BIFA has expressed its concerns that businesses here in the UK and in the EU remain uncertain about the new requirements and continue to work with government to remove any uncertainties. We welcomed DEFRA’s statement that it will initially take a graduated approach to enforcement of the controls to safeguard the flow of goods, helping traders to get it right rather than penalising them if they get it wrong. We hope that the new UK system being introduced over the course of this year has a minimal impact on legitimate trade.


This is another key area for BIFA, and one that received renewed focus in 2023 with the idea from government to set up a voluntary standard of competence for forwarders. This gained some traction with support from some trade bodies and cargo owners. BIFA is pushing back against the idea as we believe the AEO standard should be sufficient. That said, all Members should be constantly looking to improve the skills of their staff and this is an area in which BIFA wants to help.

During 2023, BIFA saw 1,001 delegates complete a BIFA training course, with all but one delegate responding that they would recommend BIFA training to their colleagues. Recognising that BIFA Members have been recruiting school and college leavers, as well as career changers, with no prior knowledge of the industry, BIFA trainers identified a gap in the existing offering and the new year has seen an addition to the one-day freight essentials training portfolio with the new Introduction to Freight course. It has been designed for anyone who is a complete newcomer to the world of freight and logistics. It is a practical course for beginners that will give participants a good foundation in the processes involved when importing and exporting goods.

We are working on new courses, plus new and multiple ways of delivery. But we also have some really ambitious ideas about how all Members can obtain easy access to any of BIFA’s training resources and how they can achieve that in the most cost effective manner. It is early days in our strategic planning, and we will be consulting widely with members in the near future, but you can expect to hear more from me on this matter.

For more information, please visit: www.bifa.org

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