ACS prepares for Brexit disruption with freighter capacity

By Damian Brett

Charter broker Air Charter Service has secured a BAe 146 freighter aircraft as it prepares for border disruption as the UK’s transition from the European Union (EU) ends on January 1.

Many are expecting changes in customs procedures at the border between the UK and EU as a result of the end of the 12 month Brexit transition to cause delays, with the government previously warning of delays of up to two days for trucks waiting to cross the channel.

The aircraft is the first of what ACS hopes to be a number of options that the company is securing in order to ensure that, in the scramble for capacity due to Brexit disruption, it can continue to offer its clients “competitive solutions”.

As the aircraft is UK-registered, there will be no need for permits to fly into the country, ACS pointed out.

Dan Morgan-Evans, group cargo director at ACS, said: “Whether there is a trade deal between the UK and EU or not, it is clear that there will be disruption ahead at the UK border.

“According to government statistics, if even a small percentage of cargo coming through the UK’s sea ports in January requires transportation by air due to the disruption, there would be a significant requirement for airfreight – the equivalent of filling thousands of Boeing B747 freighters, in some scenarios. With the continued lack of belly capacity potentially exacerbated in January by this anticipated spike in demand, charter aircraft will have to pick up the shortfall.

“The Bae 146 was identified as an ideal aircraft in many of our simulated scenarios, which included looking at the possibility of landing at smaller airports in the event of cargo congestion at major airports. However, there are a limited number available, especially on the G [UK] register.

“Whilst we can already source all of the 146’s on the market reactively like many other brokers, we felt that exclusive use of this aircraft would give ACS customers an advantage, should the situation escalate. We have a long history of dealing with these sorts of situations and know very well that relying on being ‘first come first served’ once demand has already spiked is not best for our customers – especially those who have last-minute requirements.”

The aircraft offers 12 tonnes of gross payload with a total volume of around 120 m cu. With the roller bed floors being removed, the aircraft can also be bulk loaded. 

Morgan-Evans concluded: “We would advise all of our customers to get in touch with potential requirements sooner rather than later. Even if you do not have firm requirements at this stage, starting the conversation sooner rather than later helps us move quickly in order to ensure clients do not miss out.”

Broker Chapman Freeborn has also secured capacity ahead of the end of the transition period.

In November, group charter director Pierre van der Stichele said that it had secured two aircraft on standby basis for two different customers to operate nightly flights from mainland Europe to the UK and back.

Van der Stichele said that companies appear to be less prepared for issues at the border than at previous milestones in the exit process.

“Forwarders were well prepared in the first and second wave of Brexit-deadlines and we had forward booking of aircraft, which were booked on dedicated basis for specific clients, to either transport Pharma or automotive goods.

“What we find somewhat strange is that the forwarder community seem to be immune after Brexit one and two and are not as actively concerned about Brexit anymore. We may find ourselves in the run up to the New year with last minute contingency aircraft requirements.”

The logistics industry got a worrying glimpse into what could happen on January 1 in November when French customs ran a trial of new border procedures and software.

The nine-hour trial resulted in a five-mile queue of trucks waiting to cross the channel on the M20 motorway in Kent.

The border procedures involved checks on passports, proof of means, journey details and length of stay, which take around 70 seconds per driver, the Guardian reported.

Other checks on food, drink and agricultural products could also be in place come the end of the transition.

The UK and European Union are in the process of negotiating a trade deal that could ease some of the congestion concerns.

However, extra paper work and checks are likely regardless of the outcome, although these will be able to be completed before or after the crossing.

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