The British International Freight Association (BIFA) started 2017 with another successful Freight Service Awards ceremony at the end of January. The first two months of the year saw BIFA welcome new additions to its team in the form of Rachel Morley to the board of directors, replacing Carson McMullan, in addition to Robert Windsor and Spencer Stevenson being promoted to directors of BIFA. In May, BIFA welcomed Mark Bromley as national chairman, replacing Fred Osborn.
In January, BIFA noted the arrival of the first freight train in the China to UK railfreight service, initiated as part of President Xi Jinping’s efforts to strengthen trade ties with Europe. This first modern ‘Silk Road’ service spanned 18 days and moved over 12,000 km.
Following the general election results in June, BIFA urged the new government to stop procrastinating over the expansion of UK aviation capacity, and move forward with the recommendations made by the Airports Commission to expand Heathrow Airport.
In late June, BIFA made no secret of its disappointment with the contents of the Queen’s Speech. As predicted, the speech was dominated by bills relating to Brexit, which has also overshadowed the agenda for the association and its members this year.
BIFA has continued to approach the subject of Britain leaving the European Union from a constructive angle, putting across the forwarder’s view whenever able to. It has expressed cynicism about the number of pundits offering solutions to Brexit when – at the time of writing – nobody knows what will be the outcome of the trade talks and how supply chains will need to respond. The trade association helped to organise a wellattended seminar on the subject of Brexit at the Multimodal show in Birmingham.
In July, BIFA welcomed the launch of the export finance scheme, a partnership with banks which will deliver government-backed financial support to exporters’ freight forwarding and logistics providers, in a bid to boost UK exports after Brexit.
Also in July, BIFA highlighted concerns over the growing practice among ocean freight carriers to charge customers no-show fees or late-cancellation penalties. Shippers and forwarders claimed carriers must also compensate cargo owners when lines fail to deliver services as promised, including ‘roll-overs’ and void sailings.
Later in summer, BIFA welcomed the news that CCS-UK Fallback, an electronic backup system which allows authorised traders to continue processing Customs export declarations in the event of any significant system outage, had received formal approval from the UK Government.
Revised BIFA standard trading conditions (STC) were launched in October 2017. The major changes deal with a tightening of the customer warranties and indemnities as a consequence of the introduction of the legislation concerning the provision of a verified gross mass (VGM) of a container.
The STC were the result of hours of discussion between forwarders and liability insurance brokers guided by a solicitor. The significant changes were examined by an expert barrister who had investigated case law in many jurisdictions to ensure any potential attacks on the STC are guarded against.
November saw an unwelcome return to the long-standing problem of congestion at Heathrow, with increasing air cargo volumes exacerbating age-old problems for companies that have to use the airport’s cargo centre. BIFA’s Director General Robert Keen said: “Our members, who are currently enduring misery on a daily basis when using the airport’s cargo centre, want action not words.”
BIFA membership has remained steady throughout the year, with a definite increase in revenue from training activities. With regards to BIFA’s involvement in training schemes, it has continued to promote the wide range of courses it provides as a training services provider, across all freight modes. BIFA has continued to be involved in the work of the Trailblazer Apprenticeship Group, where BIFA is supporting a group of members that are creating a freight forwarding apprenticeship in accordance with a proposal supported by the Department for Education (DfE).
In the coming year, among many other issues, BIFA will continue looking into how the HM Revenue & Customs (HMRC)’s Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) scheme may become an important accreditation in a post-Brexit era of HMRC work. It is likely that the trade association will hold a flagship seminar on this issue in 2018.
BIFA represents around 1500 UK companies in the logistics and supply chain management sector.
A non-for-profit organisation, BIFA is funded by subscriptions and run by its members for its members. It operates with a full-time Secretariat which administers and manages the Association’s affairs.
BIFA members adopt a code of conduct, and trade under a nationally accepted set of Standard Trading Conditions that are backed in the insurance sector.
BIFA main events 2018: BIFA Freight Service Awards Thursday 18th January 2018
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