Securing Enterprise Ireland’s new Ready for Customs grant helped ensure Emerald Freight Express, one of Ireland’s leading freight forwarders, was fully prepared for the UK leaving the EU.
For Emerald Freight Express it’s likely to be a busy time, moving goods for client companies all around the globe, including into and out of the UK, says Anna Barden, Financial Director. Securing the grant from Enterprise Ireland helped bring the company to this position of strength.
“We’re a one-stop-shop for air, sea and road, import and export, including warehouse and 3PL or ‘third party logistics’”, she explains.
The company has a highly trained team of 28 and has been a certified Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) since 2011. As a trusted provider of freight forwarding services, it helps its clients to ship their goods ar ound the globe. Right now, however, all eyes are on the UK and what 1st of January will mean for goods being shipped to, from and through the UK.
Not alone is Emerald Freight Express set to provide new customs services to new customers, it has expanded the customs services it offers existing ones too, she points out.
To ensure it could continue to provide a premium service to all customers, Emerald Freight Express had to invest heavily in personnel, office space, and IT systems.
“When the Brexit vote happened, we had a huge volume of enquiries from people panicking about what they were going to do,” says Anna Barden.
The team worked with each caller, helping them to determine the decisions they needed to make about things like who was going to handle customs clearances and the need to get an EORI (economic operators’ registration and identification) number or register for UK VAT.
“Unfortunately, this has been a very challenging year for all of them because of Covid, but it is important to stay focused and put the right processes in place. There is still a little window of time in which to do it but everybody needs to have their house in order before 31st December,” she explains.
The fact that trade negotiations between the UK and EU are still going on makes no difference, she points out. New customs procedures will still apply regardless of what happens in terms of tariffs and duty.
“From 1st January customs declarations and POOs, or Proof of Origins, will be required,” she points out. Importers and exporters will have to be fully compliant with the new requirements.
Securing a Ready for Customs grant from Enterprise Ireland helped Emerald Freight Express to make the internal changes it needed to make in order to be Brexit ready.
One of the first steps we took was to set up a new customs brokerage department, to handle client queries. It redeployed two key employees to manage this specialist division and hired four new recruits to staff it.
It then hired two new staff to fill the vacancies caused by the redeployment of managers, upgraded its IT systems and invested heavily in training, so that every single member of the team could develop the new skills required.
At the same time as Emerald Freight Express was making these investments, it had to expand its offices to cope with Covid-19 social distancing requirements.
All in all, it has been a hugely challenging year. “With recruitment costs, IT costs and training costs, we have had an enormous outlay in terms of getting ready for Brexit. But it was really important to ensure we continued to service our existing clients, and new ones, to the highest standards,” says Anna Barden.
“This was an investment we had to make. The Ready for Customs grant allowed us that cushion we needed to get it done.”
While there will be a steep learning curve for everyone in January, as well as, most likely, delays, the management team at Emerald Freight is already looking beyond the challenges to the new opportunities Brexit will give rise to.
For a start, clients for whom it previously looked after only Far East or US freight are now coming to it to handle their UK business as well.
“With every challenge comes opportunity,” says Anna Barden. “At the same time, you have to be able to stand over what you promise and be able to deliver on what you say. We now have the talent, the systems and the tools in place to do just that.”
She recommends other businesses looking to get ready for customs should check out Enterprise Ireland’s new Ready for Customs grant, which provides up to Euro 9000 for every new full-time staff member employed to handle customs or half that amount for a new part-timer.
“The application process for the grant was very straight forward and we got confirmation of approval within two weeks,” says Barden.
“We have the skills and the systems in place now to deal with anything that is going to happen on 1st January.”