Oil Spill Response Ltd (‘OSRL’) continues to review the potential impact of the United Kingdom’s decision to leave the European Union (‘Brexit’). As the date of leaving the UK comes closer without agreement on a deal for how to leave the EU, the prospect of a ‘no deal scenario increases. OSRL has specifically examined its response capability in the event of a no deal Brexit, and in particular, its ability to mobilise equipment and people for its members in Europe.
To fully assess any potential problems and to plan for all eventualities OSRL is using guidance issued by the UK Government, the EU, suppliers and the relevant trade bodies.
OSRL is experienced in moving equipment and people across international borders. If no deal is agreed then the need for border crossings and customs entries would apply to all movements of response equipment out of the OSRL UK base.
MOVEMENT OF EQUIPMENT
OSRL has several contractors in place who carry out freight movements on our behalf and OSRL remains in consultation with all of these regarding any potential post Brexit changes.
For air freight OSRL has a contracted global Charter Broker company who anticipates little change in relation to freight movements by air. The key change would come down to registration states of aircraft being chartered. If this has an effect the Charter Broker will work to find aircraft that provide the quickest response scenario. It is recognised that under this scenario it is likely that other users will also be seeking to use aircraft with favourable registrations so it is possible that it might take longer to source such aircraft (to be verified).
For road freight from the UK, OSRL holds a contract with a local haulier in Southampton, UK. This contract is part of the Global Dispersant Stockpile (‘GDS’) service but allows for the movement of ‘spill response equipments’. This contractor has applied to the UK government for European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) permits which would allow it to transport goods across Europe. The current status is that the application is in progress.
These permits are limited so if they are not granted to OSRL’s contracted haulier then OSRL will work with the haulier to find equivalent companies that the haulier already works closely with. If this option is not suitable then OSRL will work with other established freight forwarders (who currently deal with sea freight shipments) to ensure that suitable arrangements are in place to allow for prompt movements of freight. This scope of work is in progress.
If no deal is reached with the EU then customs entries would become mandatory for any movements of OSRL goods. This is an area where OSRL is already well practiced for both responses and equipment hire movements outside of the EU, as such contractors are in place to handle customs entries to allow goods to be moved out of the UK.
For customs entries for goods entering Europe from the UK, the UK has negotiated its own membership of the Common Transit Convention (https://www.gov.uk/government/news/uk-toremain-in-common-transit-convention-after-brexit). This means that customs declarations are only required at the destination EU country border rather than on first entry to the EU. As with OSRL’s Membership Agreements the responsibility for the destination customs processes falls with the mobilising party, however as OSRL already produce Commercial Invoices and the required shipping paperwork for global shipments the process for OSRL’s members for EU shipments would replicate the processes currently used globally.
This requirement means that OSRL’s member companies should check with their own freight forwarding contractors that the correct permissions are in place for them to carry out temporary importation of goods entering their respective countries from the UK.
For goods returning to the UK after use by a member the goods will re-enter the UK as returning temporarily exported goods through HMRC and as such will not attract any duty or VAT payments.
With significant amounts of response equipment currently on order as part of the OSRL equipment procurement programme, OSRL is keeping abreast of how any changes to the UK and EU Customs arrangements may affect these purchases.
The key change that is most likely to affect these orders is the potential introduction of World Trade Organisation rules for UK imports from the EU. This has the potential to raise equipment costs as
tariffs may become due on permanent imports to the UK. OSRL is currently assessing the effects of these changes, but is pushing for scheduled deliveries with cross-EU border implications to be carried out prior to 29 March, to minimise the risk of additional costs being incurred.
A second area of concern in relation to these purchases is potential delays in deliveries due to new Customs procedures at both the EU and UK borders. In line with this OSRL is examining its options in relation to registering with the UK Government to use the transitional simplified customs procedures to import this equipment to the UK.
MOVEMENT OF PERSONNEL
There are a number of potential impacts to the movement of people in the event of a no-deal Brexit:
(i) New passport & visa rules leading to disruption at border locations. UK passport holders may not be able to travel in the EU visa-free, might require a minimum 6 months expiry on their passports and will probably need to plan for additional time for passport checks at the border. In practice, responders are required to have a minimum 6 months expiry on their passports as this is a common requirement outside the EU.
(ii) We have been advised that there may be disruption to published airline schedules in the event of a no-deal Brexit, although the EU Commission and UK government have discussed a ‘bare bones’ agreement to allow the continuation of direct flights between the UK and EU countries and possible access rights for third countries during a transition period.
(iii) Travel and health insurance – OSRL will need to review cover to ensure that full medical and travel insurance is carried, particularly as the rights of a UK citizen to free healthcare in the EU will no longer apply in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
(iv) There has been some media speculation regarding the availability of medicines in the event of a no-deal Brexit. The potential effect for an OSRL response might be if antimalarial medication (& potentially other vaccinations) was not available at the time of an incident in a location where such medication is required. This would impact the availability of responders. OSRL is investigating whether additional stocks can be purchased in advance to mitigate this risk.
OSRL continues to monitor the changing situation using both internal resources and external contractors to ensure that there will be minimal effects on their ability to respond should the UK leave the EU with no deal in place.
However, it is important to remember that a significant proportion of OSRL surface response assets are located outside the UK and the EU (at bases in Singapore, Bahrain and Fort Lauderdale). The ability of these bases to respond is unaffected by the Brexit issue.
Also, OSRL’s subsea response bases are located outside of the UK and EU in Singapore, Norway, South Africa and Brazil so the ability to mobilise these assets in the event of an incident is unaffected by the Brexit issue. The exception to this is the OIE base in Trieste, Italy which would give rise to issues if there is an incident in the UK, and also some Containment assets held in Port of Blyth which would give issues if there is an incident in the EU. These scenarios need to be considered further.