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European Freight and ‘No-Deal Brexit’

While the rest of the country grows increasingly bored with the continued ‘Brexit’ negotiations, there’s one sector following the process with anxious interest: European freighters. If your business involves the import and/or export of goods to or from Europe, the likelihood is that your nails have long since been bitten to the quick.  What will Britain’s exit from the EU mean for your business? And, increasingly pressingly, what could a no-deal scenario look like? Will all trade come to a grinding halt? Will your business be able to survive? There are so many questions and very few answers.

Here’s what we know so far.

The Current Situation

At present, UK freighters that carry goods to and from Europe must hold a both a Standard International Operator’s Licence and a Community Licence. This allows us unlimited journeys through the EU, carrying your goods. So, when you book freight transportation with a reputable carrier, you know that your goods should reach their destination as planned. The important thing being that with the relevant licenses in place, there’s no risk of your cargo – and the vehicles carrying it – being impounded.

There is also a European Conference of Ministers of Transport (ECMT) permit available. This is only granted to a limited number of hauliers. But it does allow them to carry goods to and through all EU countries other than Cyprus.

So, that’s how things are now, but what happens after March 29th, 2019?

European Freight and ‘Brexit’

At present, the only people who may have any idea at all about what the situation for freight might be in the event of an official and agreed ‘Brexit’, are those politicians involved in the negotiations. And that’s a big ‘may’. It’s hoped that there will be little disruption, that any hiatus will be brief. But only time will tell.

European Freight and ‘No-Deal Brexit’

The major concern with a no-deal scenario is that some EU countries might be prepared to play hardball. Teaching the UK a lesson could be as much of a priority as deterring other potential exits. So, this could mean that UK-issued Community Licences would not be recognised. Therefore UK freighters would be unable to access the EU community.

HOWEVER, those hauliers with ECMT permits would still be able to carry goods as normal. It’s important to remember that there are only a limited number of these permits. So, demand for their services will be high.

Additionally, all UK freighters travelling within the EU will need to register their trailers with the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA). And ensure that the trailer’s independent licence number is clearly displayed before travel. This will be happening with or without a deal. So, make sure that you check that your freighter is prepared. That way you can ensure no unnecessary delays with your cargo.

The only thing that anyone really knows about ‘Brexit’ right now is that disruption is likely across the board. And that includes UK-European freight. Whether it leads to empty supermarket shelves, as some fear, or simply means additional paperwork remains to be seen. The one thing that is certain, however, is that finding a reliable freight company to work with is the best way to minimise the effects of whatever changes are afoot.

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Love Me Tender: How to Make Sure Your Cargo Arrives Intact

So, here you are. You’ve found a buyer/seller. You’ve got your first set of goods ready for export/import. You’ve found a reputable freight forwarder, or have decided to work directly with a carrier. Now, you just need to prepare your goods for travel. But that’s the easy bit, right? Shove it in a shipping container, and off you go! Well, yes… And also no. Preparing your cargo for shipping – whichever mode of transport you choose – can be a tricky business.

Here are a few pointers to make sure that your cargo reaches its destination in exactly the state that you intended it to.

4 Steps to Help Ensure Your Cargo Arrives Intact

1. Select the right container.

Rather than being one-size-fits-all, there are many different types of cargo container. Although this might seem to complicate matters, it does mean that you can choose exactly the right cargo transport unit (CTU) for your needs. So, how do you know which one you need? Sometimes it’s obvious; if you’re transporting perishables, you will require a refrigerated CTU. Non-perishable food stuffs require a food-grade CTU – you don’t want dried fruit being shipped in something that has previously carried waste, or chemicals. Otherwise, you basically need to consider the volume and the weight of your goods. A 20-foot container, for example, will take heavier goods, such as cement, minerals and steel. A 40-foot container will take lighter weight but voluminous goods, such as cotton and tobacco. Also, make sure that the carrier you’re working with will accept your chosen container type. Some will have specific guidelines.2

2. Check the condition of your container.

You wouldn’t send an item through the domestic post in a torn paper bag. Nor would you store food in your kitchen cupboards in damaged or wet boxes. This is because you want your packages to reach their destination, and you want your food to be edible. It’s the same premise with selecting CTUs. You may see special price packages for older shipping containers, and this can be a great way to reduce your overheads when starting out in import/export. But – and it’s a big BUT – if your cargo is not in sellable condition on arrival, you’ve lost your entire investment. SO, check for holes; make sure seals are intact and that doors shut properly and lock.

3. Pack carefully.

Well, of course, having gone to all the effort of getting to this stage, you’re not just going to throw your cargo in. Of course, you’re not. But actually, a surprisingly high number of people do. Perhaps not throw exactly, but many do fail to take adequate precautions, resulting in an unnecessarily high wastage bill. If your goods don’t fit the container precisely, use packing materials to fill the gaps and protect it. It’s obvious, really.

4. Prepare your paperwork.

Finally, make sure that you have crossed every t and dotted every i. This might not seem like it pertains to packing prep, but if customs – or your carrier – have to pull your CTU apart because you’ve failed to obtain the correct documentation, then all the other steps have been pointless. Likewise, if the cargo gets refused entry to its destination. You’ve been warned!


Preparing your cargo for shipping is easy enough to do. It doesn’t take a genius. But, it does take care, precautions, and sometimes experience. Hopefully, this list will help you complete your first freight order without any hiccoughs.

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5 Things You Need to Know About Freight Forwarding

If you’re new to the import/export industry, there’s a good chance that you have some questions about freight forwarding. For some people, it will come as a surprise that you don’t just deal directly with the shipping companies. For others, there will be questions about the process and the best way to make things work. And that’s exactly what we’re here to help you with

#1 What is a freight forwarder?

Freight forwarders essentially work as an intermediary. Their role is to coordinate the movement of large containers of goods between suppliers and the transportation companies that will move them. Whether that be via road, sea, rail or air.

#2 What exactly do freight forwarders do?

In short, the freight forwarder’s job is to handle all aspects of transportation on behalf of their clients. They find the best prices and the shortest/quickest routes. They deal with import/export paperwork, customs clearance and insurance. Many will also arrange the storage of goods.

#3 Why do I need to consider working with a freight forwarder?

Unless you have a lot of free time and a lot of industry knowledge, transporting goods anywhere is a big and complicated job. There are many plates to spin. If you have a dedicated team who can keep track of all the nitty gritty pertaining to your shipments, then you don’t need a freight forwarder. If you are intending an ad hoc approach, then a freight forwarding service is the best idea. It’s too easy to fall foul of legislature. And the last thing you want is for customs to seize your shipment because you’ve failed to dot the i’s.

#4 Do freight forwarders handle all cargo?

No. Every country has its own list of prohibited goods. If you’re trying to send something you shouldn’t be, a freight forwarder will not work with you. As a general rule, it’s also reasonable to assume that drugs, flammable items, toxic items, weapons, and alcohol will be refused.

#5 Can I send perishable goods via a freight forwarder?

If you’re willing to use an express service, most freight forwarders will handle perishable goods. However, it’s important to note, that your freight forwarding service can not be held responsible for shipping delays. If there’s a strike in your country of destination, roadblocks, or bad weather, it is beyond their control. They will work to ensure that things get moving as soon as possible. But, sometimes soon is not soon enough. That said, it’s worth bearing in mind that you’d face the same problems if organising your freight directly.

If you’re working at volume, a reliable freight forwarder can be a hugely valuable business connection. They can save you time, money and stress. If you find a good one, they will treat your cargo as if it were their own. Do your research. Seek reviews. And enjoy a beneficial relationship.

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Weird and Wonderful Customs Restrictions from Around the World

When you hit on a new idea for a new market, the export business can be highly lucrative. Spotting that gap in the market – and fulfilling it – brings its own kind of buzz. But there’s one thing that all exporters need to be aware of: international customs.

There’s a temptation to think that staying on the right side of customs and excise is a matter of common sense. Don’t try to transport any illegal substances, anything that might pose a biological threat, or anything that requires a license (unless you have that license) and you’re pretty much sorted, right? Wrong! While those are good principles to adhere to, some customs restrictions defy all logic, with even the most innocuous items being banned in certain countries. Here are some of the strangest.

Bizarre Items Banned by International Customs

Algeria – Toothpaste

Fluoride is looked upon negatively in many countries. In Algeria it’s so frowned upon that they won’t let you bring any toothpaste – or other dental products – with it in the ingredients list into the country.

Nigeria – Ballpoint Pens

Can you think of a more harmless item than the humble ballpoint pen? It’s the sort of item that you stick in your pocket without even thinking. Yet even a stray one left in the paperwork of your shipment could cause you problems in Nigeria. The country, which has a bit of a reputation for banning odd objects, currently has a ban on the import of all ballpoint pens and their parts, including ink refills… Although you are allowed to take in the tips.

Nigeria also has a ban on spaghetti, noodles, all forms of cocoa, wheelbarrows, toothpicks, tableware, and second-hand clothing. Among many, many other things!

Unites States – Kinder Surprise Eggs

They’ve been the stuff of British childhood for decades, but those scrummy chocolate eggs with their fun hidden toys are barred entry to America as a health hazard. Which seems a little odd in a country where carrying firearms is legal! The packaging of the toy inside the egg is considered a choking risk, and all such products have been banned since 1930.

Saudi Arabia – Christmas Trees

As an Islamic theocracy, there’s not really much call for Christmas trees in Saudi Arabia. But, the outright ban on them is a bit of a downer for the growing number of westerners working there. Christmas 2018 has seen a number of exchanges on social media between the public and customs officials.

Fiji – Holy Water

Right. So, the first question has to be: How has the import of holy water become such a big thing as to make into customs legislation. And the answer is that Fiji is the home of three religions that encourage pilgrimage: Christianity, Hinduism and Muslim. And what do you bring back from pilgrimage? Holy water, of course. While the Fijian government have no problem with holy water per se, most of it isn’t certified as cholera- and typhoid-free, which makes it understandably unappealing. If, however, you can get your hands on a bulk load of the stuff and are prepared to get it tested and certified, you might find yourself with a very profitable market!

Morocco – Maps

It’s absolutely fine to take a map into Morocco – as long as it complies with the country’s view of who owns a strip of desert in the western Sahara. They do, btw. Not the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic… Unless you’re in the Sahrawi Arab Democratic Republic. Then it’s theirs.

Singapore – Chewing Gum

Chewing gum has been banned in Singapore since 1992. The reasons given are numerous, but they include: the clean-up bill of discarded gum and the prevention of vandalism to the MRT – Singapore’s version of the tube. Sticking gum on the door sensors stopped them from working properly, this caused largescale disruption prior to the ban.

South Africa, Mexico, India – Matching Pairs of Shoes

Shoes are big business. Consequently, in these three countries, you’re allowed to import shoes, but only if none of them match. It’s a way to gain a foothold in a lucrative market… ahem.

So, what’s the lesson here? Basically, do your research before buying your stock and organising your freight forwarding. Otherwise, you could be in for a nasty surprise when the customs men come a-knocking.

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Freight of the Future – What Can We Expect of the Industry in Years to Come?

With so many developments in autonomous vehicles, when discussing the future of freight, driverless transport is the first thing that comes to mind. But is it really a likely reality? And are there any other more pressing changes ahead that the freight industry needs to prepare for?

What you should be expecting in the future of freight

Automation of systems.

There are so many ways in which technology has changed business in the last few years. The cloud has revolutionised admin, communication, office systems. Tracking is now easy and reliable. Security has been augmented. Automated distribution is expensive, but it’s already been embraced by a number of companies – Ocado is the perfect example. The probability is that it will soon be embraced by more, including those working within freight. And there’s little doubt that other areas of technology will keep evolving.

Autonomy of transport.

Automation really is a thing and it’s already beginning to happen. Self-driving trucks have been on the roads in Southern California since 2017. However, there are still numerous reasons why they’ll not be putting UK drivers out of jobs anytime soon. Not least, the fact that laws haven’t yet been made for them – if a malfunction leads to a pedestrian death, currently there is no liability. There’s also a major difference between the open roads of California and the congestion of inner-city London, making refuelling an issue, not to mention navigation – of streets and people.

Increasing costs.

The rates associated with both air and ocean freight have been on the rise for some years now, and that seems unlikely to change. With Brexit on the horizon, there’s a strong chance that other levies will increase too – including import tax. This could have a knock-on effect for your customer base.


Another area of the industry that could be directly impacted upon by Brexit is staffing. Freight isn’t the only sector facing this problem, but that doesn’t make it any less relevant. With fewer qualified workers available, there’s a strong likelihood that you will need to increase your wages in order to retain and attract quality staff.


We’ve already seen this happening. Smaller freighters can’t hope to compete against the international brands alone. But if they work together, their numbers make them mighty. With land and sea experts collaborating with those who specialise in airfreight, or companies in different geographical areas joining forces, suddenly the small firm is able to take on the big man.

Customer experience.

Customers now expect more from the businesses they work with. Technology has welcomed in an ‘on-demand’ ethos. And that applies to everything, from delivery timescale to booking and query/complaint response. Going forward, customers are likely to expect even more control over, and complete transparency in, the services they pay for.

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How to Protect Against Cargo Theft

Ah, Christmas. Don’t you just love this time of year? Sales are up. Stock is flying out. And the chancers are filling their boots, bags and articulated lorries at every available opportunity. In the cargo industry, it seems that Christmas is not so much a time of giving as of grabbing everything that can conceivably be lifted – tools, fuel, parts, vehicles, and, of course, cargo. Theft is a problem at any time of the year, but with so much stuff flying around in the run up to Christmas, the losses can take on epic proportions. So, what can you do to protect your stock?


5 Ways to Protect Against Cargo Theft


#1 Keep quiet.

It’s nice to think that you can trust the people around you, but the fact is that the more people who know what you’re sending and where it’s going, the more likely it is that you’ll encounter losses. Keep both cargo and drop-off locations – and thus routes – on a need-to-know basis. This reduces the opportunity for the freebooters to do what they do best.


#2 Audit your distribution centre.

Unfortunately, a lot of cargo theft takes place before it’s left the supplier. More still takes place thanks to employer collusion – your workers may not be taking the goods themselves, but they may get a cut from a guy with a big white van for a tip-off on cargo details, destinations, planned routes and number plates. An inventory management system, which allows you to track who has dealt with which shipment and when can make catching the light-fingered and loose-lipped considerably easier. If you need to get rid of suspect employees, do it. Surveillance can help with this. If someone has got away with something for long enough, over-confidence will eventually give them away.


#3 Know your supply chain.

If you use an external logistics company, get to know the people you’re working with. Choose a brand with a strong, positive reputation, and make enquiries about their security measures. Plexus Freight, for example, has company-wide policies to ensure full staff discretion, internal audits and staff reviews are regularly carried out, and all personnel receive in-depth security training. Getting to know the carrier and driver schedule, and verifying driver identity at pick-up time can also prevent a lot of issues. If you don’t know a driver and they claim not to have ID, call the main office to authenticate before handing over any goods.


#4 Use technology – new and old.

GPS logistics trackers have come down in price considerably in recent years, so if you’re experiencing a lot of theft, it could be worth investing. Likewise, with in-house couriers working with high-risk goods or areas, geofencing solutions are available. And never underestimate the power of a hefty great padlock when it comes to theft deterrence.


#5 Driver awareness.

A massive amount of ‘slash-and grab’ cargo theft takes place when on the road. The SCREEN cargo theft report for Q1 2018 states that it accounts for 63% of all lost cargo. Some of this can be prevented by adhering to the previous pointers of auditing staff and limiting knowledge, but driver awareness is also key. If parking up overnight, Plexus Freight drivers only use designated, well-lit rest spots. Doors are locked at all times, whether the vehicles are occupied or otherwise. Every driver is trained in safe parking practices. All vehicles are alarmed. And if drivers notice any suspicious activity, they call it in. It seems like common sense, doesn’t it? Not all companies implement such procedures.

The cost of cargo theft has escalated significantly in recent years. With the UK economy still struggling after the recession and in light of Brexit, there’s no reason to expect that this will change any time soon. Whether or not your company becomes a victim is down to the decisions that you make now. Here’s hoping that your Christmas is free from fa-lalala-la-la-la-la-ing looters.

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Sea Freight or Air Freight? What’s Right for You?

Whether importing or exporting goods, one of the most important questions that you’ll have to consider is how you want to transport them. The two main options are sea and air freight. Sometimes there will only be one choice. If you’re facing a tight deadline, then the answer will always be air. If you’re dealing with goods of relatively low value, sea freight is the only economical route. But, if you have neither of these considerations to focus you, each option has its pluses and minuses. These are the things that you need to take into account before making your decision.

Sea Freight vs Air Freight: What You Need to Know



Sea freight is almost always much more cost effective than air freight. In fact, air freight is typically 4-6 times more expensive than sea fright, but due to differences in how the cost is calculated, the price can be exponentially higher. Why?

  1.      Airlines bill by ‘chargeable weight’, something that is calculated using both the size and weight of the cargo. Sea carriers generally have a standard rate per container, and it doesn’t matter whether those containers are full of feathers or elephants (NB. Please don’t transport elephants in cargo containers!), the cost will usually be the same. The only time that air freight is likely to be cheaper than sea freight is if you’re transporting something very small and very light.
  2.      VAT and Duty is more expensive for air freight coming into the UK. This might seem ludicrous, given that Duty is a standard 6.5% and VAT a fixed 20%, but Duty and VAT are calculated using the overall cost of the goods, including transportation. If your freighting fees are higher, then the cut you pay for Duty and VAT will be proportionately higher too. This is the sum you need to bear in mind: duty = 6.5% of goods + freight. VAT = 20% of goods + freight + duty.


It probably goes without saying, but air travel is faster than sea. Air freight can take goods pretty much anywhere around the world in no more than a couple of days. Depending on where you’re sending, sea freight can take a lot longer, often weeks. If you’re organised, then this won’t be an issue. If you find yourself struggling and in need of goods at short notice, then air freight is the answer. But, as previously discussed, you’ll pay for it.


Carbon Footprint

If you’re concerned about the environmental impact of your business – and happily, a lot of people now are – then sea freight is the best way to keep your carbon footprint as small as possible. While sea freight is responsible for approximately 2% of global greenhouse gas emissions, aviation makes up around 13% of emissions. And because airplanes release their CO2 at high altitudes, the emissions actually do at least twice as much harm as the emissions of lower altitude vehicles. Any company with any kind of green ethos needs to take this on board.

It’s become easier than ever to ship goods globally. You can buy and sell pretty much anything anywhere (customs and excise allowing). But, how you transport them can not only affect your bottom line, but the character and reputation of your business. It’s an area that requires due consideration, and hopefully these pointers have helped you with that.

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Why Choose Our European Courier Services?

Are you looking for a trusted company to get your goods from A to B?

Brexit or not Brexit, trade in Europe will remain highly important for the UK. At Plexus Freight, we offer a wide range of transport solutions, including our courier services. We are proud to offer the most comprehensive courier services in the freight industry.

Our fast and affordable service in available throughout Europe, from the UK to the foot of Italy and the furthest reaches of Spain. We have thousands of courier vehicles stationed throughout Europe.

Whether you need a courier service for furniture, Christmas goods or perishable items, Plexus Freight work day and night to get your items delivered. We are one of Europe’s leading courier service providers, and provide much more than a basic service.

Extremely flexible, Plexus Freight offer three types of courier service.

Our services include a Same Day Express, Next Day European Express and Economy Express serviced for your needs. We also operate 365 days a year, 24/7.

Discover more about our courier services in Europe.

Or contact our team today for a quick response.

(+44) 01823 335 666.

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Pallet Delivery Services in the UK

Are you looking for pallet delivery services in the UK?

At Plexus Freight, we offer pallet delivery services in over 220 countries, including the UK.

Here are 10 reasons to choose our pallet delivery services in 2017:

  1. We offer one of the cheapest pallet delivery services in the UK.
  2. Our team can deliver to virtually any place on the globe, and any place in the UK.
  3. We have both Economy and Express pallet services available, so can find the best solution to fit your requirements.
  4. With our rate pricing structure, you only pay the price that’s quoted.
  5. We have over 40 years of experience in the delivery of pallets, and in freight forwarding.
  6. With our network of trusted transport hubs and depots, you can enjoy far greater flexibility.
  7. We can arrange for a tail lift delivery if needed.
  8. Our UK pallet delivery services operate daily, so we are extremely fast and efficient.
  9. Plexus Freight can deliver any quarter, half or full pallets you have.
  10. We also have oversized pallet delivery services.

Discover more about our pallet delivery services today.

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Do You Require Freight Forwarding Services?

Freight forwarding is the best way to organise efficient, safe and cost-effective deliveries for your company. It involves using an agent who acts on your behalf, so you no longer have to worry about the process. Instead, you can focus on your business and producing the stock that’s needed.

If you require freight forwarding anywhere in Europe, Plexus Freight offer European Pallet Delivery and Express Freight Services.

Ceramic Solutions offer a variety of freight solutions to cover all your needs.

We will get your freight forwarding working like clockwork. We also extremely affordable and can save you up to 70% on standard shipping rates. Our priority is always to make freight forwarding fast, efficient and safe, wherever your stock is heading. We understand that transport never stops, and nor do we.

When we say we cover the whole of Europe, we really mean it: our freight forwarding services are available from Germany to the UK. With over 40 years of experience we know all there is about the freight and courier industry.

Our family run company are available 24/7. Why not get in touch today?

01823 335 666.

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