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UK freight shipping costs quadrupled amid Brexit, Covid

UK freight

Trade links between the U.K. and continental Europe reopened after France eased border restrictions

The cost of moving freight from France to the U.K. surged to more than four times the usual level last week after Brexit and a virulent new strain of the coronavirus complicated supply chains.

The spot rate for last-minute shipments across the English Channel reached more than 6 euros per kilometre (US$4.56 a mile) for a full truckload in the final week of 2020. That’s up from an average of 1.50 euros to 3 euros, with some isolated cases of firms charging 10 euros per kilometre, according to data from the global logistics platform Transporeon.

The figures reflect the moment of maximum chaos at British ports, when the French government shut the border to contain a new strain of Covid-19. Thousands of trucks piled up on both sides of the English Channel, and more shippers rejected cargoes to avoid getting trapped in transit over the holiday break.

Four days into the new year, the long lines of trucks at the border have largely dissipated after France relaxed its controls. The freight rejection rate ticked down in the last week but remains 79% higher than the third-quarter average.

Truckers say the current lack of chaos at Britain’s key ports could mask the risk of logjams returning later this month as both countries adapt to new trading arrangement after Britain’s exit from the European Union.

Driver shortages over the holiday season are normal and usually lift spot rates, said Stephan Sieber, chief executive officer of Transporeon. But “the magnitude of the deviations we saw at the back end of 2020 was not normal.”

Trade and travel links between the U.K. and continental Europe slowly reopened after France eased border restrictions, but backlogs led to tensions at the Port of Dover.

Sieber predicted that higher spot rates for U.K. transport from continental Europe were likely to continue, although it was hard to tell how long for.

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