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Back Covid-19 vaccine rollout

To sustain the momentum of the UK's Covid-19 vaccination programme, the Government required vaccines to enter the UK and pass through Customs ‘untouched’, to reach the high numbers of people registering for their jabs.


Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS)


UK Government


Customs brokerage of several types of Covid-19 vaccines into the UK

  • Brokerage of the vaccines, increased from 2 to 3 arrivals every month, up to 3 per week, ensuring millions of vaccines arrived seamlessly into the UK

  • An end-to-end digital process ensured an asset-light process avoiding any delays

It was important to the UK Government to maintain the momentum it had started on the national vaccine rollout and to help enable the Country to return to pre-Covid lifestyles.

The Government’s Vaccine Taskforce (VTF), part of the Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy (BEIS), needed to ensure that one vaccine coming into the UK, could be received into customs, cleared without delay and forwarded to its final destination, safely, securely and speedily.

Kuehne+Nagel is an approved supplier to the Government’s Crown Commercial Services (CCS) Framework RM6074 – Logistics and Warehousing - for services that are subject to strict compliance and regulations.

Getting the green light

In April 2021 the VTF approached Kuehne+Nagel’s Government Pharma and Healthcare team and appointed us direct via RM6074 to provide a stand-alone UK customs brokerage service. Following the initial approach in early April and the award of the contract, the service was swiftly in place to meet vaccine arrival dates.

Technology paved the way

Kuehne+Nagel – as part of its preparation for the customs changes required for EU Exit – had already comprehensively automated export and import customs procedures, to ease the pain of data collection and process.  This meant that all documentation associated with the import of the vaccines was logged, ahead of the vaccine trucks’ arrival at entry points.  This saw the trucks enter the UK without a hitch and sail smoothly through customs.

This unique system of digital processing of data met compliance with both EU and UK requirements and the Kuehne+Nagel customs team worked tirelessly by liaising with the UK Border Force and the Vaccine Taskforce.

For the vaccine rollout to continue unabated, the vaccines had to reach the country at large, for anyone who needed it, so distribution delays weren’t an option.  This was a guiding force for Kuehne+Nagel in its project plan, which made sure there was round-the-clock coverage in order to manage any unforeseen issues.

There was an agreement for a consistent end-to-end process to be put in place with agreed timeframes for service requests. Proactive action from our customs team ensured the trucks were unimpeded on arrival, which was key to the success of the Kuehne+Nagel project.

Providing value to the UK taxpayer

A typical feature of imported goods arriving into the UK is that they incur duty and VAT levies, payable to HMRC.  Payment of any levy is typically made via an import duty deferment account. 

Importing goods into the UK creates a duty deferment fee for UK Government which could jeopardise a timely customs process – something both parties worked together to avoid.

As the percentage tax payments on the vaccines could be significant, our usual business terms dictate that an importer pays us a charge for this service.  However, because of the nature of what we were handling, the reasons behind the imports and the fact that this cost would be imposed on the UK taxpayer – we agreed that the VTF could use our deferment account and we reduced and capped our charges to a flat fee to cover our costs. This amounted to substantial savings being achieved.

Paying the disbursement on behalf of the UK Government and capping our charges, was the right thing to do to offer value for money for the UK taxpayer.

What our customers say

“We worked closely with the Kuehne+Nagel team who provided the services and we appreciate their contribution to the vaccine rollout."

Chris Neame, Commercial Lead, Vaccine Taskforce

“Crown Commercial Service is pleased that our Logistics and Warehousing agreement (RM6074) was able to support this critical piece of work.  Our agreements are intended to simplify the procurement process, enabling our customers to access the agreements at pace and this was certainly the case on this occasion.  Our aim is to save money for the UK public sector and I am pleased that by working with Kuehne+Nagel we were able to deliver significant commercial benefits for the customer and UK Taxpayer whilst further supporting the national fight against the pandemic.”

Claire Murray, Head of Category - Document Management and Logistics, Crown Commercial Service