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.