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Is a skills crisis limiting Britain’s trade?

Frank Dunsmuir, Head of Customs & International Trade, Digital Trader Services & Fujitsu

Britain is facing a skills crisis at its borders – with a predicted 42,000+ more intermediaries needed to

cope with demand – as importers struggle to manage customs complexity post Brexit.



With a lack of skilled workers on hand to navigate the EU trade processes and the easement ending

on 31 December we’re in contact with many organisations anxious to avoid long delays at UK

borders as 2022 nears.


Currently the UK boasts around 8,400 customs intermediaries, and the research we’ve done as

Digital Trader Services (DTS) suggests that if businesses continue working the way they’ve always

worked, there just won’t be enough resource to cope with the new customs requirements. Our

worst-case scenario planning suggests the UK declaration demand will increase by five times next

year, meaning that the UK could need a staggering 42,000 customs agents.


We are seeing organisations growing their customs teams but it’s a struggle for many. Cost is often a

barrier, as specialist recruitment agencies demand large fees for skilled workers and those workers

are seeking high salaries which many businesses are struggling to meet. Many businesses are also

reporting difficulties retaining skilled staff due to the high demand for them in an incredibly

saturated market.


It is undoubtedly a big issue for business but we believe it provides the catalyst for a different

approach, bringing together technology and customs expertise to reduce overall complexity and

provide practical help.



Providing a digital solution to the issue, we have DTS offering Logistics Service Providers (LSPs) and

traders a quick and easy way to submit declarations directly to HMRC which doesn’t require customs

expertise. It’s an easy-to-use portal without complex questions or customs jargon and can cut admin

time with a smart engine that auto-populates up to 75% of data fields.


For LSPs, DTS offers a lifeline; helping to address some of the issues currently holding up the import

of EU goods – including information arriving through multiple channels and in multiple formats; the

time needed to manually complete numerous compliance documents; missing or incorrect

paperwork; and accessing a full work up of shipping goods information from customers and

partners. LSPs and customers collaborate within DTS to speed up the process.



While DTS’ smart engine provides a solid, much-needed solution, there remains a need to bridge the

skills gap. That’s why, alongside the portal, DTS provides access to advice and support, drawing on

the expertise of the Institute of Export & International Trade, including personalised guidance for

complex declarations. DTS also offers educational support to help upskill in-house teams to navigate

the new customs landscape.


My belief is it’s this combination of technology, coupled with access to leading trade and customs

expertise, that gives Britain the chance to fill the gap between the skills it has and the expertise

needed to ensure that 2022 isn’t the year where full containers sit in the UK’s ports or on the tarmac

at busy distribution centres.

*Learn more about Digital Trader Services

Published On: 18/11/2021 16:00:25


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