Hot debate on Windsor Framework at UKWA Roadshow in Belfast

October 13, 2023

Last month UKWA held the second of its Warehousing Roadshow events in Belfast, co-hosted with the All Ireland Warehousing Association (AIWA). Appropriately enough, given the passionate discussion around the issues facing Northern Ireland’s warehousing and logistics community, guests and expert speakers convened at a venue directly opposite the Parliament Buildings at Stormont.

The roadshow brought together trade bodies including the Road Haulage Association (RHA) and Cold Chain Federation (CCF), to discuss amongst other things, the impact of the Windsor Agreement on the sector. Joining John Martin of RHA and Tom Southall of CCF, were Ally Hobson of Montgomery Transport Group and Peter Summerton of DFDS, each providing a view from the operational ‘sharp end’, and solicitor Steven Meyerhoff of road transport solicitors Backhouse Jones.

While there was consensus on the UKWA roadshow panel that the Windsor Framework is an improvement on the Northern Ireland Protocol, there were still real concerns around the negative effects of increased bureaucracy, uncertainty, higher costs and, as a result, diminished business across the Irish sea, to and from mainland GB.

We heard from Peter that costs were falling disproportionately on smaller operators as paperwork remains the same irrespective of the size of the consignment. He spoke of challenges around storage, with some products operating under different rules and coming through different channels. Everything has become both more complicated and more expensive, the panellists agreed.

Groupage operators, for example, are being affected in that a single pallet in a mixed load of 24 pallets could result in the whole vehicle being detained – and consequently multiple customers’ deliveries are delayed. Accordingly, operators are instead bringing in larger loads of the same products, which require storage, in turn driving up demand for warehousing space in the province.

Clare Bottle, UKWA CEO commented, “Clearly there are multiple challenges still facing the logistics industry in Northern Ireland, but it was heartening to hear that trade associations such as the RHA had made a real difference in conveying those concerns to government. Similarly, UKWA is playing its part in bringing together voices from across the industry and providing a forum for exchange of views.”

She added, “As one of our panellists remarked, the warehousing and logistics sector is resilient, resourceful and innovative. As the voice of warehousing, UKWA will continue to work in collaboration with our friends and colleagues across the industry to support members operating in Northern Ireland and beyond.  Solutions must be found, and it will be businesses, not governments, that ultimately make this work.”