Strong and Herd Associates

Bernard O'Connor

•  Member of the Institute of Export

•  Former Fellow of the Institute of Freight Professionals

•  Former Member of the Chartered Institute of Transport & Logistics


Bernard has over forty years’ experience within the International Trade arena, having begun his career with a container shipping line back in the 1970s at a very exciting time when container shipping itself was a very new industry. Bernard rose through the ranks, eventually becoming Operations Director of the Manchester office. 
A former Fellow of the Institute of Freight Professionals (now defunct and replaced by BIFA - the British International Freight Association) and a member of the Institute of Export, Bernard has represented the Manchester surface forwarding community for many years, assisting both individuals and organisations in their dealings with Customs. He was the main driving force behind the introduction of computerised Customs clearance for the Manchester surface freight community back in the 1980’s and he continues to work with software developers and freight forwarders on Customs clearance matters.
Diversification was never far away and in the 1990s Bernard moved on to set up and run a successful European trailer transport operation between the UK and Benelux/Germany.
Finally, Bernard became immersed in Customs & International Trade procedures with a four year secondment to HM Revenue & Customs.
Whilst with the Customs team in Southend, Bernard was involved in the introduction of NES - the New Export System (now National Export System) to computerise export Customs clearance.
He was also involved in the introduction of the New Computerised Transit System (NCTS), the Simplified Import VAT Accounting system (SIVA) and the SAD Harmonisation project.
Most of Bernard’s work with Customs was in the sphere of publicity, training and awareness. During his time in Southend he produced many varied publications, press articles and training material all designed to ease the trade into these new systems.
Bernard’s secondment with Customs ended in 2007 and he now works exclusively in the field of Customs & International Trade procedures. His expertise covers a broad range of international trade subjects, including Tariff classification, import procedures, export procedures, Community Transit, Customs warehousing, Inward Processing Relief and many more Customs regimes and procedures.
Having been seconded to HMRC from the shipping and forwarding community, Bernard has gained a unique and valuable insight into the workings of Customs and how new regulations are introduced and applied to the trade at large. He continues to sit on a number of Customs/Trade working groups and actively participates in a range of International Trade events and seminars.
Bernard currently manages Strong & Herd’s outsourced shipping office clients. This involves a wide range of activities, including the provision of Customs clearance instructions, the checking and vetting of import and export Customs entries, the maintenance of import, export and IPR logs and the reporting of quarterly IPR returns to HMRC.
Although mainly office based, Bernard often travels within the UK, carrying out international trade audits for a number of S&H clients. He also continues to produce and deliver seminars on one of his pet subjects – Export and Import Customs declarations and compliance.



Gabriela Castro-Fontoura

•  Member of the Institute of Export





Gabriela Castro-Fontoura is an Economist and consultant that specialises in making it easier for British companies to do business with Latin America. Gabriela is originally from Montevideo (Uruguay) and has spent 13 years in the UK, starting off in Durham but also living in Edinburgh and North Yorkshire.
Gabriela has a passion for her native Latin America and supports businesses at different stages of expanding to countries such as Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, Chile or Argentina, to name a few. A member of the Institute of Export, Gabriela is an expert in market research, which she is now offering from within South America from January 2013. Gabriela also offers a highly sought-after distributor recruitment service which has been used by iconic British companies such as pioneering nursery brand Silver Cross.
A firm believer in win-win in international trade, Gabriela emphasises the importance of an ethical approach to business between Britain and Latin America. She focuses on those British businesses that have something special and unique to offer to her native Latin America. This often involves the British manufacturing sector, which can provide quality products to the growing emerging markets of Latin America.
Gabriela has supported British manufacturers such as Ellis Patents to research and access these markets. Fluent in Spanish and English, Gabriela also speaks Portuguese, French and Italian, making her a proficient communicator, combining her analytical skills with excellent multicultural communication.
Given her contacts across Latin America, companies and organisations can benefit from other services provided such as organisation of bespoke trade missions as well as webinars and training.
Gabriela contributes often to international trade publications such as Global Trader Magazine (now published in association with the Institute of Export).  
Gabriela believes in the power of social media, particularly for international research and developing contacts in foreign countries. She shares business news, tips and information on Latin America daily, so feel free to connect with @uklatinamerica Gabriela’s profile can also be found on LinkedIn.


Mark Hayward


•  Member of the Institute of Export

•  Certified International Trade Adviser (CITA)

Mark Hayward is an experienced provider of training to companies from a wide range of industry sectors who are concerned with the financial risks and costs associated with trading internationally.
He has more than 30 years’ experience in international trade, the majority of which was gained in a career in international banking (Barclays Bank and latterly Bank of Scotland Corporate). His roles included senior positions in trade operations and corporate relationship banking, providing consultancy, sales support and training to bank clients of all sizes from SME to Large Multinationals.
Mark left banking to establish his own business in 2007 and specialises in the delivery of training programmes and support services aimed at internationally trading companies from a wide range of industry sectors, with a particular focus on Letters of Credit and Trade Finance. Alongside these programmes, Mark also delivers regular Strong & Herd courses including Export Essentials and Incoterms® 2010.
Clients range from SMEs new to exporting and / or importing to large multinational organisations based in the UK and Europe.
Mark also works closely with corporate service providers, such as banks and accountancy or legal firms who seek to add value to internationally trading clients through an increased awareness of trade risks, costs and solutions.
His blog Understanding Letters of Credit provides regular handy hints, tips and case studies to companies seeking to manage the risks and costs associated with this secure, but highly technical and demanding  form of payment.
Mark is a Member of The Institute of Export, having been accredited in 2007 as a Certified International Trade Adviser (CITA).
Mark Hayward is on LinkedIn




John Spargo 

•  Former Chair of the UK Oil Industry Taxation Committee (UKOITC)

•  Former Chair of European Petroleum Industry Association Tax Group (EUROPIA)

•  Member of the Institute of Export



John owns and operates Customs 558 Limited, a consultancy company specialising in the excise duties chargeable on oils, alcohols and tobacco products.

He works with companies affected by excise duties to ensure that they understand and manage their exposure. In doing this he relies on over 30 years successful experience as a policy advisor on Customs and Excise Duties in the UK and Europe. His comprehensive track record includes ten years leading BP's Customs and Excise Duties compliance and advisory team in the UK, and before that ten years as a senior advisor for oils and alcohols excise duty policy with the former HM Customs and Excise.

John is an accomplished trade representative with over ten years’ past experience of chairing the Indirect Tax Groups in the UK Oil Industry Taxation Committee (UKOITC) and the Brussels-based European Petroleum Industry Association (EUROPIA). He is also a very experienced trainer with an impressive track record of devising and delivering both classroom training events and bespoke one-to-one or smaller group sessions covering all aspects of Customs and Excise compliance. John delivers Strong and Herd’s “Introduction to Excise Duties” Course.

John also advises on all aspects of customs (Import) duty for all products, not just those affected by excise duty.


John Reed

•  Member of the Institue of Export



An experienced and hands-on consultant, strategist, and mentor to businesses who want to build or improve their international profile, John worked in international selling for many years before establishing Exportaid in 2002. While his business works across a number of industry sectors, his key experience is with construction related products and services. Never afraid of a challenge, John’s experience has been instrumental in creating long term opportunities for his clients out of sometimes daunting business challenges. He thoroughly enjoys what he does, and loves travelling.

John established Exportaid to help UK companies to develop their international trade, to minimise risks and maximise profitability. Contracted to Chamberlink Manchester 2003-2005, recruited companies to UKTI’s Passport to Export scheme (P2E), training 120+ businesses in NW England. Exportaid has since worked with companies in the creative arts, engineering, clothing & fashion, textiles, capital equipment, and supplies regular updates to a database of some 2,500 companies internationally. Currently working on projects with wall cladding, environmental drainage, and lifting hoists.
Most fulfilling achievement –re-negotiating an insecure $350,000 deal for 20 incinerators into Iraq in 2005-2006, ensuring payment routes, securing shipments, and setting up a Baghdad distributor.

John worked for Low & Bonar as Export Sales Manager 1997-2004. Specification selling of carpet tiles into the international markets by appointing and training 32 agents and distributors worldwide, from Europe & Scandinavia, into Russia and Turkey, selling occasionally into the Middle East & Far East, and establishing Australian distributor.
Most fulfilling achievement – increased annual export sales from £400,000 1997 to £1 million 1999.

John was employed by Calder Wilkinson Ltd 1994-1997 as Export Sales manager. Moved with the sale of W.A. Fell and continued to sell a full range of woodworking machinery to businesses in the UK, USA & Canada, and to India, with remote selling to West & South Africa & Middle East.
Most fulfilling achievement – selling 5 x £40,000 machines to a mill in South Carolina

From 1989-1994 John was Export Sales Manager for W.A.Fell & Co, originally employed as a Sales Engineer, sold capital woodworking machinery and tooling throughout the UK, then within the first year given responsibility for the USA & Canada.
Most fulfilling achievement - created all the marketing & promotional material for a joint venture between W.A. Fell and Western Cutterheads of Kentucky.




Cuneyt Yetgin

  • Certified International Trade Adviser (CITA)
  • Associate Member of Institute of Export (AMIEx)
  • Member of Istanbul Customs Consultants Association


Yetgin started working with Guler & Dinamik Customs Consultancy from 2010 to date after serving in Istanbul Police Crime Laboratory for 19 years as a Forensic Document Examiner. After being retired from his Chief Superintendent position, he was focused on International Trade and Customs. He is still an expert witness providing his expertise to number of courts in Istanbul and also running training programs to maintain awareness of fraud in trade Organizations and Financial Institutions. In addition to series of training courses he received on International Trade, he studied the Certified International Trade Advisor program within Institute of Export in UK and was granted with the title of AMIEx and CITA.  He is currently studying a postgraduate program on International Trade in Istanbul University of Commerce while holding the position of International Relations Director at Guler & Dinamik Customs Consultancy Inc. He is currently responsible of advisory and compliance of number of multi-national trade and investment projects in Turkey. 



Kenan Guler

  • Certified Customs Consultant
  • Certified International Trade Adviser (CITA)
  • Member of Institute of Export (MIEx)
  • Member of Istanbul Customs Consultants Association

Kenan Guler has been working in Customs Consulting services since 1987. After being granted Assistant Customs Consultant Certificate on 1988 he obtained his Customs Consultant Certificate on 1993. He has gained multi-national experience after establishing and operating number of branches within Europe for a large logistics service provider. He established his own company in 1999 and still the owner of GLR Authorized Customs Consultancy Inc. He has been providing training services within numerous Chambers of Commerce and to number of leading companies. In addition to series of training courses he received on International Trade, he studied the Certified International Trade Advisor program within Institute of Export of UK and was granted with the title of MIEx and CITA.  He also holds Certificate of Professional Competence in International Transport Management. He is currently studying a postgraduate program on International Trade in Istanbul University of Commerce while holding his senior position in his company. He is currently providing one-stop consulting solutions on import and export, customs legislation, investment projects in Turkey, IPR solutions and international trade. 


Julia Farré Fernández


Júlia Farré Fernández has worked in the promotion of overseas business for both private and public sectors. As an Export Manager of a SME, she managed sales in 30 different countries around the world, representing 40% of the company’s turnover, and obtained a 15% growth from 2007-2009 in the middle of world financial crisis. She has worked both in England and Spain managing international trade support programmes for SMEs. In the UK she worked for a leading consultancy firm, where she was in charge of implementing International Programs for the Welsh Government and for the German Federal Ministry. In Spain she has now supported over 100 companies boost their international sales and is accredited by regional and national agencies to manage export programmes.  Postgraduate in Marketing, Chartered Marketer by the Chartered Institute of Marketing (England), International Trade Postgraduate (Spain) and BA in Translation and Interpreting (Spain, France and England), Júlia speaks fluent Catalan, English, French, German and Spanish. 

She is specialised in recruiting sales agents and distributors, as well as generating sales leads, in Western Europe (Germany, France, Benelux, Scandinavia, Spain, Italy, and UK) and South America (Chile, Colombia, Argentina and Brazil).

Her aim is to offer practical services yielding short-term results and works with the client to optimise the company’s own resources. Recent projects she has managed:

  • research and recruiting of 5 independent sales agents for a textile company into France.
  •  research and recruiting of 8 distribution and engineering companies for a food processing engineering company into Colombia.
  •  research and recruiting of 5 distributors for a pharmaceutical company into Germany.
  •  research and recruiting of 5 distributors for a biotechnological company into Brazil.
  •  arranged meetings with 14 prospective clients in France from the water and heating sector for a screws and fastenings manufacturer


David Miller

  • Relevant Qualifications: BTEC on Safety & Security Assessments (Section 5) for Authorised Economic Operator


David has 25 years’ experience within the Customs, VAT & AEO fields firstly as an Officer for 12 years within HM Customs & Excise (as it was then) and since 1999 as an indirect tax consultant. As an officer in HMRC David visited businesses to undertake Customs & VAT audits to ensure that they were compliant with the Customs & VAT legislation. Having been a gamekeeper he has now turned poacher and uses his experience to proactively assist businesses make the most of the Customs & VAT systems.

Because David has worked both within HMCE and as a consultant he understands both the commercial aspects of International Trade & HMRC requirements. This means that not only does he provide practical and understandable advice but because he ‘speaks the same language’ as HMRC he can represent businesses in a manner which produces the best outcome for clients.

As a Customs consultant this involves assisting businesses understand not just their compliance obligations but available opportunities to reduce their import duty and VAT bills so that they pay neither too much nor too little duty, especially as import duties are often a ‘sticking tax’ so directly affect bottom line profit if dealt with incorrectly. Recent client work includes:

  • Providing advice on the duty & VAT implications of importing from non-EU countries on a practical level such as Customs declaration awareness, liaising with freight forwarders, need for commodity codes so that businesses fully understand what they need to consider when importing
  • Undertaking reviews for clients on all Customs matters mainly in the UK but with some EU businesses
  • Helping clients with the implementation and operation of a Customs Warehouse
  • Advising clients on the successful operation of IPR including retrospective IPR
  • Advising on Valuation of imports including what should be included in the Customs Value and what can be excluded, specifically work on Buying Commission
  • Assisting clients with Tariff Classification so that they declare the correct commodity code for duty purposes
  • Advising on the rules of origin for specific products in order that clients can use Preferential Duty Rates with comfort
  • Assisting a number of clients on obtaining and operating End-Use Relief
  •  Representing clients when dealing with HMRC both on dispute resolution and obtaining rulings such as BTIs to ensure best possible outcome results

In addition, as a VAT consultant David undertakes a lot of work in the complex International VAT arena ensuring that VAT is correctly dealt with both in respect of imports, exports and intra-EU trade and his experience in this field is unique given that many VAT advisers do not know anything about Customs and many Customs consultants have limited VAT knowledge.

Recent work in International VAT includes:-

  • ·       Assisting clients with ensuring they are aware of rules regarding the zero rating of exports;
  • ·       Assisting clients obtain VAT cash flow savings by using reliefs such as Onward Supply Relief;
  • ·       Where clients import or trade via other EU countries assisting with the VAT implications of such transactions

AEO – more recently with the advent of AEO, David has also been involved on a practical level assisting businesses that are either considering or who wish to become AEO authorised. This involvement has included undertaking the requisite Assessment Reviews for both the Customs & ‘Section 5’ Safety & Security parts of AEO authorisation as well as assisting with the successful authorisation as an AEO operator.

Given the complexities of AEO David provides practical advice to ensure that the process in becoming authorised is as painless as possible and this advice ranges from initial advice as to what AEO is and how it can benefit a business so that an informed decision can be made with regards authorisation (or not), through to undertaking the Assessment Reviews and right through to managing the whole AEO authorisation process if desired by a client.

David obtained a BTEC in Section 5 Safety & Security Assessments for AEO from EdExcel in December 2011.


Michael Gasiorek


  • Senior lecturer in Economics at the University of Sussex
  • Managing Director of University of Sussex spin-out InterAnalysis Ltd.




Michael has a wealth of experience in international trade including consultancy and training work for governments, the private sector, international organisations and academia. He is an expert on the economics of Regional Trading Arrangements especially in the Caribbean and North Africa, on rules of origin; and on the impact of trade liberalisation on firms and labour markets.

Together with colleagues from the University of Sussex he has developed the TradeSift software designed to make the analysis of trade and trade policy much easier. Using the software he has been responsible for the delivery of more than 20 trade policy training courses worldwide for participants from more than 70 countries, including training for the UK Department of Business, Innovation and Skills and the OECD.

Michael’s academic interest lies in both empirical and theoretical research. His empirical research has focussed on the impact of trade liberalisation within the EU, between the EU and third countries, and between regions within countries. His recent applied research has focussed on: reform of the GSP; the impact of trade liberalisation between the EU and the Southern Mediterranean; rules of origin; the impact of trade liberalisation on firms and on labour markets. Michael has published widely in both books and journals, such as the European Economic Review, World Economy, Economic Policy, Journal of Common Market Studies, Applied Economics and the European Economy. He has also produced a number of reports for the European Commission, and various governments. He is also a member of the FEMISE (Forum Euro-Mediterranéen des Instituts Economique) Steering Committee. 



Andy Garside

  • Dangerous Goods Safety Advisor (all classes, road)
  • Technician Member of IOSH
  • Member of RoSPA
  • Former Committee member of British Association of Dangerous Goods Professionals 

Andrew has over 20 years’ experience in the Dangerous Goods transport field. Andrew started in road transport in 1983, and worked his way up  to becoming an instructional officer within the Ministry of Defence in 1988.

With the changing of legislation and advances in technology in 1996 Andrew successfully began designing and delivering courses to suit the MoD’s rapidly changing training needs. He was part of the team that designed and implemented the drivers Theory course for the Army training school, and also redesigned the HAZMAT training course.

While at the Ministry of Defence in 1997Andrew studied for his ‘in-service Certificate in Education’ and took part in the program to deliver ADR training to the military around the UK and into Europe, which helped develop the flexibility in training delivery which has become one of Andrews strengths .

Andrew left the MoD and trained for the Anti-Rollover driver training program for BP. In 1999 While working for P&O TransEuropean bulk fuels Division as a shift supervisor , he helped formalise the training of new drivers at the Hertfordshire depot,

Andrew has achieved his DGSA qualification, and has a good knowledge and awareness of the application of Dangerous goods legislation on all aspects of industry, from the manufacturers to the end-users. This expertise has seen training and advice delivered as far afield as Kosovo for the EU mission there.

Andrew has a keen Health and Safety to, having studied and achieved the NEBOSH certificate and is currently studying for the Diploma. As an IOSH technician member. Andrew is qualified and accredited to deliver Managing and Working Safely courses for IOSH Certificates, as well as Manual handling .


Emma Johnson


Lived and worked in Hokkaido, Japan for three years from 1992 – 1995, teaching English, after which she gained a Master’s Degree in Japanese.  Emma worked in the Embassy of Japan in London for 2 years, undertaking written translation, diplomat correspondence and assisting Japanese citizens in distress. (During this time she passed the top level of the Japanese Language Proficiency Test – Level 1). 

As ‘Inward Investment Manager – Japan’ at Yorkshire Forward (Regional Development Agency for Yorkshire and the Humber), Emma worked closely with Japanese corporations in encouraging them to invest in the region and during that time, several Japanese corporations chose to invest in the area.  Emma was offered the opportunity to return to her home city of Manchester, to take up the post of Associate Director at the Japan Centre North West, developing and delivering a range of Japan-related business services, including translation & interpreting services and cultural awareness business briefings.  Emma also has experience working as Asia Pacific Consultant for UKTI North West.

Emma was invited to be a guest speaker at the 2007 Institute of Linguists Annual Members Day, speaking about ‘Japanese Business Culture and Language:  Overcoming the Barriers’. 

Throughout her career, she has undertaken countless business trips to Japan talking to corporations in their own language and she has organised many Japanese delegations to the UK.  Emma has used advanced level written and spoken Japanese throughout her career in addition to making presentations in Japanese. She has been a finalist in the Sir Peter Parker Awards for Spoken Business Japanese. 

Emma has delivered a seminar entitled “Japan:  Road to Recovery” for the University of Chester’s Diversity Festival, as well as working closely with a large Japanese logistics company, in the preparation of an International Training Programme, to help the company’s high-potential managers to become more ‘globalised’.  Emma has also conducted market research into the importance of cross-cultural awareness in business.

It is Emma’s love for and experience with Japan that has triggered her desire to set up Enterprise Japan-UK, as she is passionate about the opportunity to act as a cross-cultural bridge between the UK and Japan, both at a business level and at an educational level, bringing a greater awareness of the spirit of Japanese culture.


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