Operators of NI’s major ports say they are ready to build Brexit related-infrastructure as soon as government confirms what is necessary.
The ports have been engaging with Stormont’s Department of Agriculture (DAERA) over the creation of border control posts (BCPs).
These are facilities where food and animals are checked to ensure they meet EU standards.
At the end of the Brexit transition NI will continue to follow the standards.
The rest of the UK will not.
That means that from January some food products entering Northern Ireland from Great Britain will be subject to new checks and controls.
‘Work on hold’
The manager of the Port of Larne, Roger Armson, said: “We are very close to agreeing where we need to get to and what we need to do to get a spade in the ground to be ready for 1 January.”
However, Mr Armson said work was “on hold” until they get the go-ahead from DAERA.
DAERA has been liaising with its counterpoint in London and the European Commission in Brussels.
Maurice Bullick from Belfast Harbour said they have reached agreement in principle with DAERA on “the specification, design and layout of the new inspection facility”.
He added that construction could take place without planning permission using permitted development rights.
New computer system
The port operators also expressed concern about the development of a new HMRC computer system which will be vital for the smooth flow of freight across the Irish Sea.
HMRC have promised the new goods vehicle movement system (GVMS) will be operating by 1 January.
Brian McGrath from Foyle Port said there was scepticism in the industry about that timetable.
“I don’t think the track record of government in terms of that sort of technology implementation would give anybody a great deal of comfort,” he said.
“It’s very close to the deadline. I don’t think too many people in the world industry think that’s going to happen.”