Since the vote that gave rise to Brexit some four years ago, the Belgian customs representative Portmade has taken several steps to prepare for this. Brexit has strongly boosted digitization at Portmade and increased data traffic enormously, with the result that more data capacity was and will still be needed. Thanks to their housing at LCL Data Centers, all of Portmade’s sensitive information is secure.

LCL datacenters: a secure vault for sensitive data

The collaboration between Portmade, a small company with about 50 employees, and LCL Data Centers began in 2012. At that time, the customs representative was a Telenet customer for its data flows and network protection. Telenet offered housing via LCL. When Telenet stopped offering housing, Portmade approached LCL directly. "We’re very happy with LCL," said Guio Veraart, director and co-owner of Portmade.

Given the enormous amount of sensitive data, Portmade's customers benefit from having this information stored in a secure location. That is why Portmade chose the LCL datacenters, where they have a number of servers, switches and also a firewall and other cybersecurity software. All their digital data flows (mostly via EDI) and their mail traffic run via their infrastructure at LCL. In addition, Portmade also has infrastructure on-premises in several of its locations, including for disaster recovery and backup. The company manages its IT itself.

Portmade does the declarations, which means it sees the goods flows of a wide range of customers, from shipping companies and logistics platforms to industrial concerns and foreign forwarders. On an annual basis, Portmade handles more than one million transactions.

Consequences of Brexit for data traffic

Four years ago, the majority of the British voted in favour of Brexit. At that point, Portmade's management immediately sat down to discuss how they would handle the shift from extra-Community supplies to exports. Veraart explains: "We have been digitizing customs declarations for years now. This is the ideal way to efficiently process an increasing volume of declarations. Most data now comes in via EDI. We now have more of a monitoring function. We also complete the declarations. In terms of transit documents, for example, we push data to the terminal. There the documents are printed and handed over to the driver."

And Veraart continues: "Everything to do with messaging and data handling has tripled in two years. Thanks to the scalability at LCL, we will be able to switch quickly and respond to further growth opportunities."

Despite everything, Guio Veraart is surprised at the size of the increase: "We at Portmade already assumed that Brexit would stimulate data traffic four years ago, but we never dared to imagine it would have such a big impact." 

The General Administration of Customs and Excise has calculated that the number of export declarations for Belgium as a result of Brexit will increase globally by 47% and the number of import declarations by 14%. "We are also seeing a clear increase in our figures," says Veraart. "Portmade's export activity more than doubled in January, compared to January 2020. Import declarations have also increased slightly," he adds.

Preparation is key

Despite the fact that Brexit was announced four years ago, there are still companies, according to Veraart, that did not take the necessary measures in time. In recent months, a number of companies doing business with the United Kingdom came to Portmade to ask for help and support. "They realise that they have not taken action in time and are now unfortunately suffering the consequences. Nevertheless, at Portmade we will continue to do our best to support as many companies as possible so they can continue to trade with the United Kingdom," concludes Veraart.

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