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Steve Parker Director General, BIFA

Adapt to survive

Underlining the adaptability and resilience of the freight forwarding and logistics industry, BIFA Director General Steve Parker discusses how the industry is preparing for planned changes to the border regime and addressing its environmental impact.

The headline for this article might sound a little dramatic, or even like a potential title for the next James Bond movie. It is not meant to be either, but rather to serve as a reminder of how adaptable the freight forwarding and logistics industry has always been and needs to continue to be.

When I joined the industry in 1973 and started to work for Pandair, it was itself a new company formed from a number of smaller ones. The talk of the time was that small forwarders would not survive and that the industry would be dominated by a handful of major players. Well, that predication, often repeated since, was wide of the mark and still is today. That’s because freight forwarders are able to adapt. The past few years have shown how. The pandemic was a tough time for all but our industry stood up and played its part so that not only did many BIFA members survive this period, they also thrived. During the past year or so we have faced an economic crisis, rising costs for energy and staff, as well as fluctuating freight rates across all modes, which have meant members have had to continually adapt.

At our second Business Leaders Forum in the Autumn, Aidan Reilly, Director of Customs Policy and Strategy at HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC), outlined the considerable changes at the border that are in the pipeline as part of the Government’s stated ambition to develop and implement a Single Trade Window. Reilly outlined how freight forwarders would need to adapt to the potential disruptions likely to result in the Customs environment with regards to the BTOM, CDS Exports, Windsor Framework, and Single Trade Window, among others.

HMRC has shown how it can adapt to feedback too. Following a number of formal submissions requesting an extended transition period for the move to NCTS Phase 5 to prepare for the implementation of the new phase, the Common Transit Convention (CTC) authority announced that there will be an extended transition period for the move. HMRC considered these submissions carefully and decided to extend the deadline based on views and feedback received from the trade, confirming that the new date for implementing NCTS5 in the UK will be 1 July 2024, rather than the original implementation date of 16 November 2023. HMRC has liaised with industry stakeholders to ensure the new implementation date is achievable and has avoided peak periods and other key government project delivery dates.

In 2023, we have also seen the need to understand and address the environmental impact of freight forwarders’ activities within global supply chains growing by the day and that’s why we have continued to strengthen the cooperation we established with Pledge, a leading player in the field of carbon emissions measurement and offsetting, at the start of this year.

BIFA is adapting too. In the time that I have been Director General, the need to adapt has been clear. Whether that is improving our membership engagement, establishing a new Sustainable Logistics policy group to provide guidance on environmental issues, or upgrading and developing new courses for our training department, it is part of the evolution BIFA needs to go through in order to best support our members and the industry.

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

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