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Grimsby, Boulogne-sur-Mer officials scramble to iron out post-Brexit logistics

Officials are working to tackle distribution and other challenges ahead of the looming Brexit deadline.

A delegation from the United Kingdom's Grimsby seafood processing cluster traveled to Boulogne-sur-Mer, France's largest fishing port, to discuss potential post-Brexit issues, including export, transport, competition and trade.

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"We were overwhelmed by the scale of UK products coming to Boulogne," Simon Dwyer, a spokesperson for the Seafood Grimsby & Humber cluster, told IntraFish.

Stakeholders taking part in the visit included New England Seafood, Seafish, Pelagia and the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA).

The Grimsby representatives focused more on the processing sector and did not take on the harvesting side of the supply chain, Dwyer said.

Representatives of the cluster spoke with logistics companies in the area about the new documentation requirements that will be needed for exports following United Kingdom's exit from the EU, which is expected to happen Oct. 31.

The delegation also met with representatives of large distribution networks in Boulogne-sur-Mer, including STEF and Delanchy Transports.

Presently, fish from Grimsby takes an average of 12-15 hours to get to distribution hubs in Boulogne-sur-Mer, however, the time needed is expected to double following Brexit.

Boulogne-sur-Mer will set up a border inspection post to carry out physical and documentation inspections. If the documents are not accurate, the inspectors have the right to discard the items.

However, the good news is that products will not go through an initial inspection when going via Calais, since all the customs and phytosanitary checks will be carried out in Boulogne-sur-Mer.

Officials from the European side at the ports of Calais and Boulogne-sur-Mer have been expressing their preparedness for Brexit since before the end of March.

"Boulogne-sur-Mer wants this to work well because the United Kingdom is important to them and fresh fish is important to France in terms of supermarket shelving," Dwyer said.

After the imports are cleared, the products can be distributed anywhere around the European Union.

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