It was a major wake up call for the transport sector when The United Kingdom’s decided to exit the European Union. There have been radical changes to how freight is shipped to and from the UK since 31 January 2021. The amount of red tape has increased significantly, and each shipment must be accompanied by detailed paperwork. The smallest mistake or omission can lead to shipments being refused.
We talked to Brunschwig Chemie, a world-leading supplier of specialty/fine chemicals, industrial chemicals and hazardous substances as well as the associated logistics services. Brunschwig imports and distributes a huge assortment of more than 300,000 products from all over the world. In preparation for Brexit, Thijs Boon from Brunschwig Chemie enlisted IDS’s help for the company’s export activities to the UK.
Brunschwig started out as a specialist in ultra-fine chemicals. Based in Amsterdam for over 80 years, the company has increasingly strengthened its focus on providing logistics services in response to the growing demand. Brunschwig imports products from as far afield as Canada and distributes them throughout the whole of Europe, including to the UK. The Brunschwig team were so busy handling the growing demand for the company’s logistics services that they didn’t have much time left over to spend on preparing for Brexit.
Why choose a control tower?
Thijs Boon explains: “As a specialized shipper, it’s impossible for us to maintain contact with all kinds of carriers and to approach them for each shipment. In that case, we would need to arrange a different carrier for Spain, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands. That’s why we started looking for a way to take care of everything in one go. A control tower turned out to be the best solution for us because it covers all our activities, and we have a single point of contact.
We weighed up all the options carefully to find the most suitable partner for our company. Because we were already working with ADR, that soon led us to IDS. Thanks to its specialization in hazardous goods, IDS was the best fit with our needs. Not every control tower does that. Another big advantage is the convenience that IDS offers us. It’s really reassuring to know who we need to call if we have a problem – and that if we call, everything will be well taken care of.”
“I simply supply the input needed and IDS does the rest.”
And then Brexit reared its head. “IDS was already managing all our shipments to the UK and that was working perfectly. I work closely with Robert from the IDS team and when I was talking to him one day about how Brexit would affect Brunschwig Chemie, he had an idea. He suggested letting IDS handle, evaluate and further improve our activities related to export documentation,” says Thijs.
“IDS subsequently specially trained its employees on drawing up and submitting the export documents properly. We initially tried out the new way of working together with two shipments and everything ran flawlessly. Robert and I are in close contact on a daily basis, so I trust his advice. It’s so easy now. I simply supply the input needed and IDS does the rest. And that’s precisely what I’ve come to expect from them. From the moment that the shipment is picked up here to the moment that it’s delivered to the customer, IDS relieves the burden on us. As soon as a truck is involved, IDS takes care of it for us.”
Anticipating and preparing for Brexit
Thijs continues: “I didn’t foresee all the consequences of Brexit, but thankfully Robert did. In fact, he was very thorough in mailing all the necessary information and step-by-step instructions in the run-up to Brexit to help us to prepare. At the beginning I had more of a wait-and-see attitude, but then Brexit became a reality and suddenly everything had to be arranged, so I turned to Robert for help again.”
Robert: “Brexit was a sizeable challenge for a shipper as specialized as Brunschwig. They’ve been extremely good at what they do for many years, but Brexit was unknown territory for many businesses, so it’s understandable that Brunschwig needed a bit of extra support with the changes. In the run-up to Brexit, I kept in close contact with Brunschwig and advised them on the steps they needed to take to be able to continue to ship goods to the UK after Brexit.”
At Brunschwig, they were extremely happy with that: “Robert figured out the details of everything that was needed. For example, we source a lot of our products from a partner in Canada. We usually only arrive at an invoice format that could later serve as a future template after lots of emails back and forth, not to mention a delay due to the time difference. That was the biggest bottleneck for us.
Luckily, IDS took a problem-solving approach and sent the information and other data through to the customs agent. We kept fine-tuning the invoice until it was approved, and it’s now used as a template for all the invoices we receive from Canada. That’s a huge relief, because the whole Brexit situation was new for everyone, and our Canadian partner was worried about it. Several of our products are REACH-certified. That requires considerable investment beforehand, which increases the risks. I’m really happy that IDS took care of the customs activities.”
The current situation
When asked how things are going now, Thijs Boon responds: “Everything is running tremendously smoothly. Our latest challenge is to bring a shipment back from England and that’s far from easy, apparently. When shipping from the Netherlands we always create an export document, but that’s now our partner’s responsibility. It’s good to know that I can always contact Robert if I have any questions about it.”
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