The European Community Shipowners’ Association (ECSA) has called for an acceleration of the development of the EU / UK trade rules that will need be followed after Brexit.

The recommendation was made as part of a public statement during the European Parliament’s Transport committee’s hearing on the issue of ‘Impact of Brexit on Maritime Transport’.

According to ECSA, business should be prepared as soon as possible due to the fast-approaching Brexit date.

"After Brexit, unless the EU and UK find a workable agreement, a cargo declaration will be necessary, together with other checks and controls."

ECSA has also underlined three immediate priorities for shipowners, namely the smooth flow of traffic by sea between the UK and EU, and the free movement of seafarers, onshore staff and passengers, as well as continued market access to the domestic trade and the offshore sector.

The EU currently exports €365bn worth of goods and services to the UK, representing 54% of total UK imports.

The UK’s current share of exports of goods and services to the EU is worth €274bn, which equates to 43% of the country’s exports.

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ECSA Secretary General Martin Dorsman said: “When it comes to border procedures, for the moment ships can operate freely to and from the UK with a minimum of administrative burden.

“After Brexit, unless the EU and UK find a workable agreement, a cargo declaration will be necessary, together with other checks and controls linked to, among others, immigration and phytosanitary control rules.

“It will mean heavy congestion in ports lacking enough space for the huge numbers of lorries and trailers, and just-in-time supply chains will cease to exist due to the congestion problems.”

ECSA further noted that the EU and UK should not impose market access restrictions on domestic trades and the offshore sector in order to provide continued market access to for shipowners.

The UK originally abolished all flag restrictions in 1849 and the country is required to have its international trades open to free competition under the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) membership rules, said ECSA.