Álvaro Partida of Partida Logistics explains how the Spanish customs agency has adapted to the twin challenges of Covid and Brexit to help exporters in Spain, Portugal and Morocco reach the UK market
Partida is a family business founded in 1923. Initially, the company acted as a transit commission agency in the port of Algeciras [near Gibraltar in the south of Spain] to manage the movement of goods toward Tangier and Ceuta in Morocco. As time went on, Partida became a customs agency specialised in the import and export of goods between Europe and Africa.
The core structure remains to this day, providing customs and logistics services for goods transported by containers and trucks through the main Spanish ports, including Algeciras, Motril, Sevilla, Huelva, Cadiz, Almeria, Valencia, Barcelona, Vigo, Vitoria, Irún and Madrid.
At Partida we have been adapting our structure and means by keeping pace with the ever-increasing volume of goods, always maintaining the agility and professionalism of our services. Our quality-oriented policies have contributed to us obtaining and maintaining the Authorised Economic Operator (AEO) certificate, whose last renewal took place in 2018.
Today we’re a team of 125 people working in our office in Algeciras, from where we handle operations taking place in different ports. Our work philosophy and dedication are the key to achieving and maintaining the trust of our clients, thanks to which some companies have stayed with us for over 50 years.
2.What services do you offer and how have they changed over the years?
We offer a wide range of customs clearances declarations, such as import, export, Brexit and transit (T1 and T2L), for any kind of goods being carried by truck or container. Additionally, we´re capable of providing all the necessary logistic services such as warehouse, transportation, goods quality reports and we assist with the shipping lines.
3.How has the business adapted during the pandemic?
Yes, we have adapted, the whole chain has. After two years in a row of negative episodes in all possible scenarios, we all continue fighting. The pandemic, the crisis in maritime traffic, the rise in prices of supplies, carrier strikes, Brexit, and forced but long-awaited digitalisation mean we are prepared for whatever comes this year.
We had to rethink our internal strategies ranging from functional, organisational, and advertising with the aim of optimising the company’s resources and the skills of the staff in each department to the maximum. We also continued investing in IT to obtain state-of-the-art tools that help us control volume at the administrative and operational levels, and we continued with advertising activities to publicise the benefits of Partida and reach new markets.
4.How can Partida Logistics help British fruit and vegetable suppliers?
We mainly help Spanish, Portuguese and Moroccan exporters, among others, to reach the UK market by processing their customs declarations, advising on documentation and the new logistical protocols to follow with UK carriers and operators. We’ve partnered with some UK-based customs agencies to provide a 360-degree service to the supply chain on both sides of the UK border and to exchange trustworthy information. After Brexit our services became essential for many companies that were not used to processing imports and exports activities outside Europe.
As we all know, the UK imports huge volumes of Spanish agricultural goods, so we’re involved in the logistics chain by making sure that all the procedures are done correctly to avoid issues at the borders. The whole picture changed due to Brexit, but we saw it as a business opportunity and set up a new department, hiring 18 new staff.
5.What challenges are importers and exporters currently facing when it comes to transporting fresh produce between Spain and North Africa?
At Algeciras Port the exchange of goods never stops. Each hour a ferry arrives at, or departs from, Algeciras or Tanger Med Port, carrying up to 80 trucks. The biggest issue we all face occurs when the port collapses as the port facilities aren’t capable of coping with the huge volumes. Over the last decade, the volumes haven’t stopped increasing andthat’s not to mention the goods coming in by containers.
As we know, agricultural goods are required to go through sanitary and phytosanitary controls and physical inspections, therefore it´s extremely important to get the documentation in advance in order to check them out and begin all the processes with the aim to release the goods as soon as possible. When facing delays, we manage to divert cargo to other less congested ports. To do so, it’s key to internal control and communication with customers. They demand transparency and we provide it.
6.How is Brexit making shipments from North Africa to the UK (via Spain) more costly, complicated or delayed? How can your business help with this?
Morocco, for instance, increased its exports of fruit and vegetables to the United Kingdom by 51 per cent the first month of the year, after Brexit.
A huge majority of African goods reach the UK by land transportation. Trucks enter through Algeciras Port (running the necessary customs procedures), and drive through Spain and France before reaching Calais to get the Eurotunnel or board a ferry at Caen Port. Our business helps by processing the necessary customs clearance (transit or import regimes) and sanitary/phytosanitary certificates.
There is also a ferry operating the Tanger Med to Poole line once a week, but this frequency isn’t enough. Therefore, it’s difficult to say which transportation is quicker and/or more convenient to avoid higher costs or delays.
7.What advice would you give British companies importing produce from North Africa?
Take it one step at a time. It’s essential to visit the origin to get to know the chain-flow, timings and peculiarities. Choose a trustworthy exporter, carrier and customs agencies. Then, be on top of them to set up a solid coordination to make sure everyone knows their duties and responsibilities.
There are lots of tasks that need to be carried out accurately to avoid delays and additional costs. This involves correct labelling, pallets, packaging, goods quality, issuing the documents correctly and getting to know what customs need and how they operate. Also take time to find out what and how the UK requires you to import goods from the country in question.
8.Are you seeing increased delays at Spanish and Moroccan ports due to Covid or any other factors?
Since the Covid, the whole logistics chain stepped up to ensure goods distribution was not affected. Many changes took place to enhance agility, especially in the IT area of the ports and sanitary/phytosanitary systems. Facing huge volumes was a challenge considering the situation but everybody helped one another. Logistics and everyone involved are finally getting the recognition they deserve. In recent years, we have witnessed episodes of all kinds, which make us understand that logistics moves the world and takes no breaks.