Following the UK Parliament vote to reject Theresa May’s Brexit deal on Tuesday (12 March), the Port of Rotterdam has ramped up its contingency plans to manage hundreds of stranded trucks at its terminals if Britain leaves the EU without a deal on 29 March. 

The plan involves the creation of five parking areas for up to 700 heavy goods vehicles at ferry and shortsea terminals in Rotterdam. The measures have been taken on the basis that some truck drivers will not have the relevant customs documents to board ferries for maritime crossings to the UK following Brexit.

There will also be additional customs formalities and inspections by the Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority as well as passport checks for UK truck drivers, which could lead to longer processing times at terminals.

The coordinated action aims to minimise extra delays resulting from additional customs formalities at ferry and shortsea terminals and to ensure freight traffic to the UK runs as smoothly as possible.

There are also contingency plans at the Port of Rotterdam to provide additional capacity for any overflows from truck parking areas, should the designated waiting areas reach capacity.

Of the approximately 54 million tons of freight traded annually between the UK and the Netherlands, around 40 million tons pass through the Port of Rotterdam, mostly via ferry and shortsea crossings.

The Port of Rotterdam and local ferry terminals conducted a simulation exercise to study the effects of Brexit on the processing of freight traffic at the terminals. The research concluded that up to 400 trucks a day would not have the correct documentation before boarding ferries bound for the UK. The figures mean the authorities can expect that the 700 additional spaces provided at buffer parking sites will be sufficient.

If Brexit goes ahead, Dutch seaports will be one of the countries to form a border between the EU and the UK, which will mean there will be additional processing of customs papers and documents for goods and people at ports across the Netherlands.

The Port of Rotterdam is also advising exporters, hauliers and shippers to use a digital notification system called Portbase if their cargo that is destined for the UK. The Port said that cargo logged into their system can pass quickly through customs to and from the UK, even after Brexit.