The UK government has bought up extra ferry freight capacity and set up a logistics hub in Belgium to ensure the supply of medical items in the event of a no-deal Brexit.
A letter, leaked to SM, outlines how suppliers will be able to buy “tickets” to use the freight capacity, while the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) will administer a “Dedicated Shipment Channel” able to move products from mainland Europe to the UK “typically within three days”.
The letter, from Steve Oldfield, chief commercial officer at the DHSC, said the government had been working on border arrangements to ensure goods continue to flow into the UK but the EU has said it will impose full third country controls on goods passing from the UK to the EU. “It is possible that the imposition of such checks will lead to delays,” said Oldfield.
“We are working hard to ensure our ports, routes into Europe and traders are ready in order to minimise the risk of significant delays, and that will continue to be a top priority,” he said.
“However, to ensure there is no risk to importation from the EU of critical goods such as medicines, the government has secured some additional ferry capacity. This will be available as an alternative supply route for companies moving these products into the UK.”
The government has bought tickets from ferry operators for the additional capacity and these will be sold on “at market rate” from 4 March.
The move comes as the Department for Transport faces legal action from Eurotunnel over the awarding of contracts to provide ferry freight services under a no-deal Brexit.
The Dedicated Shipment Channel has been set up separately for medical firms operating on short lead times “as a contingency measure for use in the event that suppliers’ arrangements encounter severe disruption to the movement of product to the UK”.
“The movement of product through this channel will be determined and controlled by the DHSC on the basis of the needs of the health and social care systems across the UK and its Crown dependencies,” said Oldfield.
“The DHSC has set up a logistics operation to move products from mainland Europe into the UK and through to care providers and patients, typically within three days from receipt of products into the logistics hub in Belgium.”