How ChannelPorts helped Solstor overcome red tape on imports

January 11, 2022

About Solstor

As a family-owned logistics company operating since the 1980’s, Solstor has been providing transport services throughout Europe for over 30 years, handling a range of products; from fresh fruit and vegetables to frozen desserts, freshly cut flowers, chocolates and biscuits. In addition to this, their general cargo division moves nonfood products such as engineering components, paper, building materials, publications and clothing.

To put it simply, Solstor run trucks and forwarding services between the UK and Europe, handling domestic UK and European cross trade. The company has hubs and offices across the UK and Europe, including the likes of Italy, Spain, France, Poland and Belgium.

Looking to the future, Solstor aspire to continually evolve in an everchanging logistics market. Having grown organically to become one of the largest UK based temperature-controlled logistics providers, the company will continue to develop its services and offerings by further expansion into the East and center of Europe, as well as further afield in the coming years. To meet customer demands Its Full Load and Groupage service has also adapted to multi-modal solutions as a core effort in supporting the environment.

The challenge

A big part of Solstor’s offering includes a complete package of customs clearance services, and following Brexit, problems came to the fore as border operations were set to change between the UK and the rest of Europe. The landscape was unpredictable, with constant alterations, red tape and delayed onset of border controls. Almost overnight, Solstor was under pressure to drastically scale up its customs declarations.

Initially, though Solstor always had a good service, the 15 year partnership with ChannelPorts was infrequent with low volume movements between Switzerland and Norway where customs clearance was needed, with around just twenty transactions per annum. Instead, with vast regulatory changes and sanctions on goods coming into play, Solstor would have had to manage around fifty customs transactions per day.

Regulatory changes have been followed by onset delays directly affecting Solstor’s clients, particularly those working within the agri-food sector. In October, the UK Government announced that the official roll out of customs changes will come into play 1st January 2022; but this is for ChannelPorts to monitor and stay on top of.

The solution

The team identified ChannelPorts as having values that aligned to their own as a family-owned business. And, due to Solstor and ChannelPorts’ long-standing relationship, the company was assured of the teams’ reliability and trustworthiness to overcome regulatory hurdles, which is why Solstor chose to further pursue its partnership. This decision was consolidated by CustomsPro, meeting Solstor’s exact needs to tackle its uplift in demand of Customs services.

The power of technology

Combining over 50 years of experience working within the industry, ChannelPorts is equipped with vast knowledge for managing the clearing of goods in and out of the “Roll on, Roll off” ports of the UK. When it comes to digitally optimising processes, ChannelPorts understand the time and investment required for complete in-house technological transformations. This is why we offer our own solution – CustomsPro; the digital customs clearance platform – available to use at our customer’s disposal.

At crunch-point and in a bid to tackle the uplift in demand of customs services, ChannelPorts was able to develop a solution that would specifically suit Solstor and its customer needs using CustomsPro. This enabled the company to optimise its processes whilst meeting the EU and UK governments moving goal posts and time frames.

Once more, the CustomsPro software is continuously evolving to support Solstor. This has facilitated the company’s goals to continue its offering of an end-to-end solution for clients, whilst acting as a pillar for Solstor’s future growth beyond Brexit.

Plan of action

To fully implement a process that enhanced the partnership, Solstor had training manuals and an open phone line to the ChannelPorts team to test the system before going live. The software developers worked with Solstor’s developers to create API links and amendments where needed. During the extremely challenging first few months of the UK leaving the EU, utilising CustomsPro allowed Solstor’s operations team to focus their time and efforts on running trucks, whilst its customs team could make real-time execution of the customs requirements with ease.

Alleviating the customs burden

Solstor’s customers are made up of retailers, manufacturers, food service, farmers and growers. For the most part, these companies are not armed with expertise when it comes to customs clearance. Therefore, the relationship and service Solstor has built with ChannelPorts and CustomsPro has enabled Solstor to take away an extremely important, high-risk requirement from its clients. CustomsPro simplifies the customs process, providing live data on the clearance status of shipments, and a complete history of shipment records in compliance with HMRC regulations and automatic notification of clearance. This allows customers to focus on their core business and growth instead, rather than worry about accidental non-compliance and fines.

No “I” in team

Solstor found the ChannelPorts team to be an invaluable asset for Solstor and its clients, appreciating the ChannelPorts team’s attention, understanding, and ability to listen to its needs. The team at Solstor highlighted as a key takeaway from the partnership with ChannelPorts is the teams hard work and dedication. Speaking of the partnership Ben Seamons, International Director at Solstor said, “The resilience they showed in the beginning stages of UK exit from the EU, and the continuous improvement they focus on for the ever-developing world of logistics and customs clearance requirements is a key contributor to the success of our on-going partnership. It shows that the many years of experience ChannelPorts has, and their understanding of customs clearance coupled with early planning and foresight that went in to develop the software was critical to its success and our success for our customers”.   

If you’re an SME who engages in regular trade with the EU, and in need of guidance and clear oversite of the shipment of your goods, get in touch with ChannelPorts today, either on our website, via email enquiries@channelports.co.uk or call us on +44 (0)1304 203105.

Similarly, if you’re a business in need of transport services for the shipping of either food or general cargo, get in touch with Solstor either on their website, via email bens@solstor.co.uk or call on +44 (0) 1322 923 937.

By Tom Sommer