19 February 2021




At the time of publishing this annual overview, already underway into 2021, we are looking back at 2020 – a historic year, which demonstrated the pivotal role of the transport and logistics sector in keeping economies alive during the times of unprecedented crisis, while being severely affected itself. As such, CLECAT underlined that the speed of any rebound in world trade would rely heavily on the ability of freight forwarders of all sizes to keep global supply chains running smoothly, but also on the abilities of other parties, such as carriers, to build increased resilience, visibility and sustainability of those supply chains. Most importantly, the transport and logistics sector learned new lessons on the importance of world trade, digitalisation and resilience.

Throughout 2020, CLECAT focused its advocacy work on ensuring that borders were kept open and that the Green Lanes continued functioning. Policy-makers were informed on the challenges of the sector, including volatility, unpredictability and disruption, caused by uncoordinated border closures, combined with varied and mismatching rules across Europe. We learnt from the pandemic that the concepts of resilience and contingency planning should become enshrined in future EU transport and logistics policies, with an eye towards avoiding any similar supply chain disruptions in the future.

CLECAT once again demonstrated its value by working tirelessly to support its members in steering through the COVID-19 crisis. We increased our communication and reporting efforts two-fold and engaged with members more than ever with frequent online meetings, which allowed the CLECAT team in Brussels to voice the messages and the concern of the industry to the European Commission.

Willem van der Schalk
CLECAT President 


At the start of the year, CLECAT showed that it was ready to take another step in a green direction by expressing support to the European Green Deal, published by the Commission at the end of 2019. The Green Deal outlined the initial roadmap of the key policies and measures needed to pave way towards making Europe the first climate-neutral continent in the world by 2050. CLECAT recognised that the ambitious 90% decarbonisation target for the transport sector could only be achieved with bold investments, smart regulation and a clear engagement of both governments and industry. CLECAT warned against certain measures that would prevent the Green Deal from becoming an opportunity for the transport and logistics industry and rather become a burden, given in particular the unrealistic modal shift objectives. 


CLECAT assumed leadership in bringing a number of relevant stakeholders together in jointly objecting to the prolongation of the Consortia Block Exemption Regulation (CBER) on the grounds advanced in the Commission Staff Working Document from November 2019. The associations argued that the Commission failed to demonstrate that the continuation of the CBER would benefit transportation users and service providers, i.e., consumers.



The coronavirus pandemic shut down many countries and implemented border closures, prompting CLECAT to start organising frequent members’ meeting to exchange information and to agree on initiatives towards EU policymakers. CLECAT was in regular contact with DG MOVE and Member States on the concerns and needs of the industry, such as on air freight capacity and the need to centralise information exchange, lift certain traffic restrictions for road freight and embrace harmonised procedures for border controls.

CLECAT welcomed the Commission’s first air freight-specific guidance published in late March, aimed at facilitating air cargo operations during COVID-19. The guidance included a number of recommended operational measures, which were realistic and fit for supporting the industry. Following the proposals from CLECAT, the Commission adopted additional contingency measures, such as the continued re-approval of ACC3, RA3 and KC3 designations, as well as alternative procedures to allow for this during the crisis.

CLECAT also welcomed the Commission’s guidelines to the Member States on how to protect the flow of goods across the Green Lanes and called for support for transport personnel exposed to difficult circumstances. Furthermore, CLECAT and ESC published a recommendation on the handling of goods at loading and unloading sites, designed for both consignors and consignees, as well as drivers and hauliers, in the wake of COVID-19 outbreak.


CLECAT, joined by shippers and terminal operators, expressed its discontent with the decision of the European Commission to once more extend the CBER for liner shipping. CLECAT considered the exercise to be one-sided and to the benefit of carriers; CLECAT therefore called for a more balanced and fair process at the next review.

Moreover, CLECAT advocated for more transparency and dialogue on fair bunker charging during the COVID 19 crisis, in response to the shipping lines’ failure to pass on their gains down the chain, following a freefall in the price of very low-sulphur fuel oil (VLSFO). In addition to that, CLECAT intensified efforts in pursuit of fairer charging of demurrage and detention fees during the pandemic and provided recommendations for a more transparent determination of detention and demurrage practices in container shipping.

In the area of aviation, CLECAT made recommendations towards the European Commission for improving the persisting issues with Ground Handling Agents at EU airports, calling for further liberalisation of the sector and quality standards.

CLECAT also provided expert input to the European Commission’s Expert Group on Safe and Secure Truck Parking Areas regarding data elements to be featured on a common website for safe and secure parking areas, designed to provide a user-friendly overview for industry-users.

In anticipation of the relaxation of measures in the Member States and the Commission’s guidelines on restoring transport services, connectivity and free movement, CLECAT advocated for the coordinated approach to the lifting of containment measures during the transition period.


Customs, perhaps more than ever, played a crucial role in keeping goods moving in, out of and across the EU. CLECAT urged DG TAXUD to provide active leadership and to consider firm solutions to address the impact of the pandemic. Many of the proposals made by CLECAT were adopted by the Commission. This included possibilities for delayed payment of customs duties and taxes, extension and flexibility in deadlines for customs procedures and formalities, reduction of non-essential physical and administrative checks, as well as increased possibilities for digital exchange of paper documents.

CLECAT also joined efforts with other supply chain stakeholders within the Trade Contact Group (TCG), urging DG TAXUD to improve its coordination and communication efforts to ensure that customs administrations across the EU take appropriate steps to manage the crisis.

CLECAT continued its dialogue with DG SANTE and ensured specific temporary measures to facilitate the performance of veterinary and phytosanitary controls and the movement of agricultural goods, allowing for the electronic exchange of paper-based health certificates and other official attestations.


CLECAT stepped up its concerns with regards to the behaviour of carriers since the outbreak of the pandemic. CLECAT reiterated to DG COMP and DG MOVE that fair play and sharing of the burden should remain the guiding principles during the crisis. This should overall be part of normal relationship and continuous dialogue between the parties in the maritime logistics supply chain. CLECAT therefore warned that the unreasonable practices of carriers regarding container equipment, freight rates and various surcharges, including increasing demurrage and detention fees, present a serious risk to the ability of economic recovery in Europe. CLECAT also called on the European Commission to avoid market distortions in the EU and to unbundle the activities eligible for favourable tax treatment under tonnage tax schemes, unfairly benefitting the shipping lines.

CLECAT also exchanged views with the Cabinet of EU Transport Commissioner Valean on the COVID-19 impact on land transport and the way forward, as well as on the evolution of the Mobility Package I and the EU Green Deal and their role in the post-pandemic recovery of European transport and logistics sector.


The pandemic, and the subsequent freeing up of infrastructure capacity due to low demand for rail passenger transport demonstrated that when rail freight has access to a good amount and quality of capacity, it can provide a reliable and customer orientated service. As part of the Sector Statement Group, CLECAT remained committed to enhancing the competitiveness of international rail freight transport business and improving the quality, reliability and efficiency of transporting goods across Europe, also in light of the 2021 European Year of Rail. CLECAT was therefore pleased to work with the group on the follow-up report of the Sector Statement Group, which was eventually presented alongside the Berlin Ministerial Declaration on rail freight in September.

CLECAT also became a member of the European Commission’s Expert Group on the Inland Transport of Dangerous Goods, thereby further expanding the possibilities for its members to provide input for relevant legislation at EU-level.



After three years of debates and exchanges with the co-legislators on the Mobility Package I, CLECAT was pleased that an important part of the new social and market access rules for road transport in the EU – Regulation on the driving and rest times – entered into force in August. Other parts of the package, i.e. the Regulation governing access to the road haulage market and the Directive on the posting of workers in road transport sector, will apply as of February 2022. In view of the remaining complexities and questions, CLECAT called for further implementation guidelines to ensure legal certainty for companies, as well as uniform application and enforcement of the rules by the Member States, which is so important for the European Single Market.

The Regulation on electronic freight transport information (eFTI Regulation), to which CLECAT contributed intensively, entered into force in August 2020. The eFTI Regulation obliges EU Member States to accept regulatory transport information if a company wishes to provide it in a digital format. At the same time, it harmonises the data and the systems through which the data is exchanged across different countries, pieces of legislation and modes of transport. The upcoming challenge is now to develop and adopt the first implementation specifications by February 2023. As such, CLECAT continued to play its active role in the Digital Transport and Logistics Forum’s (DTLF) Subgroup 1, the Commission Expert Group which advises and assists the Commission on the creation and implementation of the eFTI legislation.

CLECAT issued recommendations on the EU-UK future partnership, addressing the remaining Brexit issues which required the attention of both the UK and EU negotiators.  Those related to the operational issues and uncertainty on both the EU and the UK side which prevented businesses to fully prepare for 1 January 2021. CLECAT stressed the importance of effective communication towards trade and capacity building.


CLECAT welcomed an opportunity to offer some industry insights on the European Commission’s evaluation of its ‘Roadmap to a Single European Transport Area – Towards a Competitive and Resource Efficient Transport System’ (the 2011 Transport White Paper) and also on the ambition of the European Green Deal to put forward a comprehensive EU Strategy for Sustainable and Smart Mobility.

Furthermore, CLECAT urged the Council to agree on a common position with respect to the long-delayed reform of European truck tolling framework to help cut CO2 emissions from new trucks.

To alleviate pressure from the aviation sector, which continued struggling with the impact of the crisis, CLECAT welcomed the Commission’s proposal on the extension of airport slot relief measures. CLECAT called for a flexible and balanced approach, while simultaneously ensuring that the imposed facilitations would not be misused.

CLECAT also increased its activities in the area of cybersecurity, which further gained importance through the fast-paced developments which the sector and the overall economy were making to adapt the daily work to the COVID-19 crisis. As part of that, discussions were held on the security of critical infrastructures, feeding into CLECAT’s submission for the revision of the NIS Directive.



Frustration mounted in autumn among European freight forwarders, who increasingly felt trade was being kept hostage by carriers. Whilst carriers improved profitability during the third quarter of the year, despite the negative impact on global economies of the COVID-19 pandemic, sea freight rates reached some of the highest levels ever seen, along with equipment shortages and late vessels.  The global maritime supply chain had become extremely unreliable, above all due to the introduction of blank sailings.  

In the area of supply chain security, CLECAT continued to be closely involved in the preparations for the Import Control System 2.0 (ICS2), focusing particularly on the release for air cargo in 2023, as well as the first steps towards the release for the maritime, road and rail sectors in 2024. 

At the end of October, CLECAT organised a special Brexit 2021 preparedness meeting for its members, gathering around 100 participants from within the CLECAT membership, as well as UK and EU customs administrations. The meeting discussed country-specific Brexit-related solutions, capacity building, communication and information sharing initiatives from both industry and customs authorities.


With a wealth of interesting presentations and expert discussions, the annual CLECAT Freight Forwarders Forum took place on the 12th of November under the theme ‘Logistics Put to Test at Times of Crisis’. Gathering nearly 250 industry experts and policymakers, the event discussed sustainable logistics, the future EU-UK relations and the need to keep global supply chains running at the time of the COVID-19 crisis. The event also debated the challenges air freight forwarders were facing in light of the distribution of the COVID-19 vaccines, as air freight was likely to shoulder a high portion of global traffic for the coming years. The event discussed major, including capacity, flexibility, priority regarding border formalities, availability of cooling facilities.

CLECAT continued its leading role in supporting the Commission towards the improvement of the draft delegated act, which would enshrine the Safe and Secure Truck Parking Area Standard into EU legislation.


CLECAT welcomed the new European vision for the future of transport and mobility – EU Strategy for a Sustainable and Smart Mobility – which was published mid-December. The major aim of the measures set out in the new strategy was to put the EU on the path to reach a sustainable, smart and resilient mobility system of the future. Notably, the Commission emphasised that all transport modes would need to become more sustainable, with green alternatives widely available and the right incentives put in place to drive the transition. CLECAT was pleased with the announcement of new efforts to revise the Combined Transport Directive, as well as stricter CO2 emission standards and investment in more charging and refuelling options for zero-emission trucks.

CLECAT also welcomed the compromise achieved by EU Transport Ministers on the Eurovignette Directive, following nearly four years of highly contentious negotiations among the Member States. Nevertheless, a number of remaining concerns were highlighted, in particular the reluctance to phase out the existing time-based charges for trucks, the selective application of road charging and a possible double charging burden for forwarding, transport and logistics companies. 

The year ended with further distress on the situation in liner shipping. CLECAT alerted the Commission once more on the practices of liner shipper carriers as European supply chains were becoming more distorted.  CLECAT was in regular contact with DG Competition on issues arising from carriers’ ongoing practices relating to the violation of existing contracts, the establishment of unreasonable conditions concerning the acceptance of bookings and the unilateral setting of rates far in excess of those agreed in contracts.

The future EU-UK relationship and what this would mean for logistics and customs kept CLECAT members busy throughout 2020. Clearly, regardless of whether a deal was reached between the EU and the UK, border obligations would apply and CLECAT urged businesses to prepare. It was only in the very last week of the year that an agreement was reached between the EU and the UK. In anticipation of a deal, CLECAT issued a statement noting that CLECAT members, in particular those with important traffic flows with the UK, did everything they could to prepare for the end of the transition period, investing in IT solutions, new staff, parking lots and communication campaigns to inform all parties in the supply chains on the need to get ready.

Before the end of the year, trade was again confronted with chaos following the decision of France to shut down freight transport to and from the UK, after the UK identified a new strain of COVID-19. CLECAT called on EU Member States to follow the practical guidance from the European Commission to ensure a continuous flow of goods via the Green Lanes and to resume freight transport as soon as possible.