Sunday, 19 November 2017

Brexit: How the Netherlands is braced for 'no deal'

Dark clouds ahead? Imposition of barriers on trade with the UK could hit the Dutch economy

The Netherlands could be one of the hardest-hit EU countries if the UK leaves the bloc without an agreement. The Dutch government is expected to unveil plans this week in preparation for a hard Brexit. The BBC's Paul Moss has been to Rotterdam to see the adjustments already being made.
It is not like they are unaccustomed to challenges.
The people of Rotterdam have seen it all - their famous port was bombed by the Germans in World War Two, and once they occupied the city it was bombed again by the British and the US. But right now, there is a more prosaic problem vexing local people, like Peter Westdijk, from cargo company DFDS.
"We have to divide our terminal into separate parts," he says, standing at the harbour side, "and that will cost a lot of money."
Mr Westdijk's problem is that much of the cargo he ships goes to and from the UK. And with negotiations on Brexit showing little sign of progress, he has to prepare for what happens if the UK leaves with no trade agreement in place - which could well mean customs checks on goods which until now have flowed freely.
"You can't estimate the amount the delays will cost," he says, "but it will be considerable."

Peter Westdijk in front of cranes at the port of Rotterdam
Image captionMr Westdijk is having to prepare his company for the possibility of a "no deal" Brexit

The port of Rotterdam is just one segment in a whole network of commercial ties between the Netherlands and the UK. More than €50bn ($59bn; £45bn) worth of goods and services flow between the two countries every year. 
When you factor in suppliers and ancillary businesses, the UK is responsible for 4% of the Dutch economy. So an end to free trade between the two, the imposition of tariffs or other barriers, could well make a dent in Dutch growth figures. 
Yet paradoxically, this threat offers potential support to a key argument deployed by the pro-Brexit side. In the run-up to the referendum, they insisted it would be easy to negotiate a trade deal with the EU, on the basis that "they need us as much as we need them."
With the Netherlands and other countries vulnerable to the consequences of a hard Brexit, Britain might indeed be seen to have leverage in any negotiations. 

Graphic showing the UK's top 10 trading partners

It was a suggestion I made to a Dutch MP specialising in European affairs, Anne Mulder. Was it time, I asked, for the Netherlands and other influential EU nations to offer the UK more concessions, given all would suffer from a breakdown of talks?
The Dutch have a reputation for politeness, and I was expecting a reply laden with diplomatic euphemism. What I got was a surprisingly pithy denunciation of Britain's politicians, and their approach to the Brexit negotiations: 
"Some of them are unrealistic, they are not rational… they are always saying the ball is in the EU's court. Well there's a great big ball in their court, but they don't want to see, because they are blind."

A general view of cargo ships in the Port of RotterdamImage copyrightGETTY IMAGES
Image captionPart of the trade between the UK and the Netherlands goes through the port of Rotterdam

And what about the claim that the EU needs the UK just as much as the UK needs the EU?
"If you want to dream, do it at night," he suggested.
When it comes to those UK-EU negotiations, it seems the current betting here is on failure.

DP World London Gateway - Operations from Crane POV

Published on 21 Feb 2017


A view of operations from crane POV at DP World London Gateway.

Navis N4 at DP World London Gateway

Is Plastic the Future for Carrying Freight Worldwide?

Could the Humble Wooden Pallet be a Thing of the Past? 

UK – WORLDWIDE – One might imagine that with all the concerns surfacing at the moment it is perhaps not the best time to press for even wider use of plastic products. One company however is lobbying hard to promote the benefits of plastic pallets over their wooden forebears. Critics will say that wood is of course a natural product, a well-tested, recyclable product but supporters of the artificial alternative will point to the reusability, stackability and durability of the latest plastic models, plus of course the fact that in many modern markets, the requirement for treated dunnage in freight containers and trailers to avoid an invasion by non-indigenous species renders the use of plastic as a simple guarantee of sterility. 

It is a sign of the growing acceptance of the new medium in that a video just released by Eastbourne located to illustrate the benefits of their products comes from a company whose own parentage is that of nearby headquartered All Pallets Ltd., which claims to be the UK's leading supplier of wooden pallets, wooden crates & pallet boxes. Now the company’s new film attempts to convince viewers that wood is a medium of the past when it comes to the humble pallet. Managing director Jim Hardisty says: 
”We wanted to create more than just your bog standard corporate video [and] produce an emotive video that demonstrates how far the pallet industry has progressed in the last decade alone. The design and development of different sizes and styles of plastic pallets suit an ever growing range of applications it’s reusable and much more versatile; it’s light, nestable and exportable. Once the new neighbour, plastic pallets are now a first choice for many logistics and supply chain professionals.” 

Supporters of the traditional medium will say modern practices see trees replaced as a matter of course in many countries and stress that even quite badly damaged pallets can be repaired. This however depends on the willingness of the user to commit to recycling and there is little doubt that many pallets finish their days either in landfill or being burnt. Without a proper study it is impossible to judge which is the more ecological alternative but, in the right circumstances, plastic pallets certainly seem to be a logical option from a commercial perspective.