As the perfect storm of COVID, Brexit and global travel/shipping restrictions continues to challenge talent mobility in the UK, the need for ongoing communication, agile service delivery and alternative approaches increases. We anticipate that the impact will be felt most prominently in the areas of housing, household goods services and immigration assistance.
For insight, I spoke with Harshad Maroo, Client Service Director in our UK office, about some of the latest conditions that will have an impact on mobility assistance.
Fortunately, temporary accommodations remain available to mobile employees with services operating close to normal. Although there has been a contraction in the number of suppliers in this market, available properties can be found in most locations at competitive rates, particularly in London. In accordance with COVID guidelines, certain services may be scaled back in order to maintain social distancing, such as in-house cleaning services.
Long-term rental and home finding assistance services are being delivered. However, property viewings will be provided with the appropriate face masks, shoe coverings (where needed), gloves and social distancing, while virtual viewings will be recommended where necessary.
Harshad confirmed that our team members are still accompanying mobile employees throughout the home finding process and transporting them to property viewings. However, those assignees who prefer to make their own way from property to property can request that our staff meet them at each home.
For domestic moves within England and Scotland, there are no implications to household goods shipments as a result of the extended lockdown. Services can be provided under the previous COVID protocols (including PPE, social distancing, limited crews). Confirmation is pending from authorities that England continues to deem household goods shipment as an essential service.
On the other hand, the international shipping community is experiencing significant disruptions due to major port congestion and lack of availability of shipping containers. Arrival and departure times of all freight at UK Ports is being heavily impacted and directly affects the shipment of household effects for inbound moves and assignments.
It’s worth noting that Brexit is adding to these COVID-related challenges, as the UK experiences longer transit times, customs clearance delays, and any pending import/export changes. All shipments destined for the UK will now be required to comply with their Transfer of Residence (ToR) process and required documentation. Likewise for outbound UK moves, the import process to EU countries for shipments departing the UK are the same as for any other origin based shipment.
Over the past month, various Ocean Alliance members began diverting vessels from Felixstowe (England) and other heavily congested UK ports for discharge at Zeebrugge (Belgium) and Bremerhaven (Germany) further adding to the problem. There are concerns that the Port of Felixstowe will remain saturated for several weeks. The European Shippers’ Council (ESC) has joined forces with the European freight forwarders association CLECAT to lobby the European Commission to intervene in this crisis.
Tom Grohmann, VP of Weichert’s in-house freight forwarding operation, confirms these developments. “The general feedback I’ve received from our supplier partners is to expect longer transits as the clearance process must be completed before shipments can pack and load and depart for their destination.”
He further notes that Weichert will work with clients to make alternate arrangements to accommodate pending travel.
In response to COVID, immigration into the UK continues to vary based on departure countries. Mobile employees need to complete a passenger locator form prior to arrival in the UK and may also be required to self-isolate for up to 10 days upon arrival. This is being further compounded by Brexit.
Weichert continues to monitor the conditions related to COVID, and we will continue to keep the public informed through our blog, and clients informed through their Weichert service directors.