23rd December 2021, 17:47
Published by GBC News
A large number of wooden pallets used to transport consumer goods are piling up at warehouses and in open spaces across Gibraltar.
Since Brexit, EU rules have meant these pallets need to meet specific European standards in order to be allowed back across the border into Spain and the wider EU.
Some of these pallets are circulating within the EU without complying to standard - but they don't need to, since they are already inside the EU.
For Gibraltar, the problem lies in that some of these non-compliant pallets end up here, but are then unable to go back into Spain.
Many of these pallets will have been used to transport food and beverage items - but they are also used to ship other consumables including pharmaceutical goods and medicine.
Since Gibraltar left the European Union, pallets sent back to the EU need to meet its ISPN15 Standard: a measure developed by the International Plant Protection Convention that uses a marking to show wood materials shipped between countries have been heat treated, to prevent the global spread of timber pests.
Pallets shipped within the EU don't need to comply with this. The problem is that some non-compliant ones in the EU are being sent to the Rock, and once they're here, they can't be sent back into the EU via Spain.
Not all pallets are caught in this problem, only the ones that don’t have the correct marking. For months now, this has been a headache for wholesalers and distributors.
Saccone and Speed told GBC that the Government is looking at introducing legislation that would stop non-compliant pallets from entering Gibraltar, but that would not be the end of it for wholesalers.
Many of their EU-based suppliers have EU-wide distribution networks and it could be difficult for them to adapt these only for the benefit of businesses in Gibraltar.
And, what about all these pallets already stuck here? GBC understands the UK is also unwilling to accept them, so they have been piling up for months now. With space in Gibraltar hard to come by, it poses a significant problem.
In response to GBC questions, the Government says it has been working closely with importers and exporters of pallets for many months in order to find solutions to the problems caused by non-compliant pallets.
It says it has engaged with both the UK and Spain.
Earlier in the year, the Government alerted importers to the fact that any goods delivered to Gibraltar had to make the journey on pallets which are compliant, and that the importation of non-compliant pallets would be curtailed.
It says it is now ready to publish legislation to stop the importation of non-compliant pallets, but this will only come into force in February.
More generally, the Government says it is looking to have these issues permanently resolved through the future treaty which is to govern Gibraltar’s relationship with the EU.