The Consumer White Paper recommended that additional safety checks at ports of entry could support those port authorities that perform the service for the whole country; the total funding made available by the Department of Business, Innovation & Skills (BIS) for the ports safety project was £150,000 per year, for a two year period from 1 April 2000 to 31 March 2012.

The 2010 Regulation on Accreditation and Market Surveillance (RAMS) also made central government responsible for reporting back to Europe on the market surveillance activities as required. BEIS leads a market surveillance co-ordination committee, with membership from various agencies, including trading standards and HMRC.

LBRO has previously delivered a project supporting surveillance work of imported projects at Suffolk (Felixstowe) and Southampton ports, and it extended this work to include Gatwick and Heathrow Airports. National Trading Standards (NTS) has now taken over the role of managing the initiative.

In October 2012 Sarah Langley from Hickman Langley was commissioned by the NTS to undertake an independent evaluation for the project, to establish lessons learned and issues to consider for the future. This comprehensive report is now helping to inform the future direction of the work.

Recommendations

  • The NTS to continue funding for the ports project, focussing on the high risk ports of entry,
  • The NTS to consider increasing the funding for the ports project to include surveillance activities at other border points, based on risk,
  • The NTS to commission a mapping exercise to identify possible shifts in patterns of where high risk products are being imported, and to refresh the LBRO 'threats assessment' completed in 2009. This will inform NTS of where future ports project resource needs to be directed.
  • The Suffolk (SPOC role) to establish ghost profiling at other ports of entry to see if there is any basis for suspicions about unsafe products being imported through Heathrow, Dover or Liverpool.
  • The NTS to consider making available funding to include problem importers who have a cross border impact. Or alternatively, establishing dedicated funding for the purpose of tackling inland product safety issues identified as part of the ports project. 

The NTS has now funded a series of projects - working closely with the a number of local authorities to progress the excellent work already being done, thereby ensuring that consumers remain free from the harm caused by unsafe goods. These projects in 2017/2018 include:

  • Felixstowe
  • Southampton
  • London Gateway/Tilbury
  • Heathrow Airport
  • Coventry Postal Hub
  • Manchester Airport
  • East Midlands Airport
  • Slough Postal Hub
  • Stansted Airport
  • Birmingham Airport

Matrix Report 2014

In April 2014, the Matrix report commissioned by NTS was published. The Report estimated that trading standards efforts to intercept consumer products at ports and borders saves the UK economy at least £281 million per year in costs of injuries, fatalities and fires. The report concludes that an estimated 1.11 million unsafe goods were prevented from entering the consumer market.

Lord Toby Harris, Chairman of NTS said: "This research reinforces what we have known for some time, that money spent tackling the problem at the source makes sound economic sense. At a time when public sector funding is under severe pressure the Safety at Ports and Borders work represents excellent value for taxpayer's money. We are very grateful for the support of all the local authorities who have borders in their areas, including Suffolk, Thurrock, Manchester and many others".

"From exploding phone chargers to lethal chain saws, from harmful skin lightening cream to dangerous toys which pose a choking hazard for small children, trading standards officers prevent consumers from suffering serious harm on an almost daily basis via their intervention at borders".

Optimity Report 2018

The Safety at Ports and Borders Governors commissioned a refresh of the 2014 Matrix report and the 2018 Optimity Advisors review of this work was presented to the NTSB on the 12 June 2018.

Optimity found that the teams are delivering a highly effective operation with a benefit to cost ratio of 34:1 which is well in excess of most government programmes. They note that at the Department for Transport, for example, most approved projects are said to have ‘high’ or ‘very high’ benefit–cost ratios when they are over 2:1. Further, their analysis shows that without this national programme of stopping goods at the points of entry but instead carrying out this work inland, it would be at least 10 times more expensive and deliver lower benefits.

The report recognises the high levels of professionalism and expert knowledge within the teams which are delivering the excellent outcomes identified. Over the period the report covers, the teams prevented a total of 6,612,098 unsafe and non-compliant goods from entering the supply chain and causing harm to consumers. The damage prevented equates to 3 fatalities, 1,126 major injuries, 2,827 minor injuries and 732 fires that would have occurred without the work of the teams. The total cost saving to society that the avoidance of this harm represents, is £54,569,280.

To see a copy of the full report go to Report (pdf 1.3 mb) and the related infographic (pdf 1.1 mb).

Press articles

To see two press articles covering an issue recently highlighted with the seizure of products imported through Felixstowe go to the Chronicle and the BBC of the 3 October 2015 and the Guardian of the 13 December 2016.

For further information, please contact the Trading Standards Service, Directorate of Operations and Regulatory Services, City of Newcastle upon Tyne, Civic Centre, Newcastle upon Tyne, NE1 8QH.
Phone: 0191 2116121
Email: tradingstandards@newcastle.gov.uk

Page last updated: 
4 July 2018
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