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Freight Operator Seatruck Ferries Restricts HGV Drivers on Irish Sea

14th March 2020
The Irish Road Hauliers’ Association has sought clarity from the Dept. of Transport on whether (freight) drivers can get single cabins on ferries or be allowed to sleep in their trucks. AFLOAT's photo of unaccompanied trailers on the upper deck of Seatruck Pace, a P' class ro-ro freight ferry with a 110 freight-unit /2,930 lane metres capacity and which operates Dublin-Liverpool. In addition Afloat adds limited space for passengers (only with vehicles) were also carried, but due to COVID-19, Seatruck has now stopped carrying HGV drivers along with motorist passengers. The Irish Road Hauliers’ Association has sought clarity from the Dept. of Transport on whether (freight) drivers can get single cabins on ferries or be allowed to sleep in their trucks. AFLOAT's photo of unaccompanied trailers on the upper deck of Seatruck Pace, a P' class ro-ro freight ferry with a 110 freight-unit /2,930 lane metres capacity and which operates Dublin-Liverpool. In addition Afloat adds limited space for passengers (only with vehicles) were also carried, but due to COVID-19, Seatruck has now stopped carrying HGV drivers along with motorist passengers. Photo: Jehan Ashmore

Freight (Truck) drivers, writes The Irish Times, have complained that they cannot get clear directions about Covid-19 safety rules from the Government on how they can be protected on the road in order to safeguard Irish supply chains.

The Irish Road Hauliers’ Association (IRHA) has sought clarity from the Department of Transport on whether drivers can get single cabins on ferries, or be allowed to sleep in their trucks, which they cannot do now.

The association also wants measures to protect drivers and cargoes if a driver falls ill on the road. Tachograph rules must be relaxed, too, if drivers are forced to drive for longer.

Incoming IRHA president Eugene Drennan said some ferries were now attempting to provide single cabins. However, he said truckers have looked for for clarity from the State for three weeks, without success.

Guarantees about cleanliness onboard ferries and in ports is needed, said Mr Drennan: “It’s very important that we can reassure our drivers that we have backup; if you get ill, Europe can get you out of that cab.”

Unaccompanied trailers (Seatruck Ferries) 

Meanwhile, Seatruck Ferries, which operates routes: Dublin/Liverpool, Dublin/Heysham and Warrenpoint/Heysham is to temporary stop carrying HGV drivers and passengers on board.

The newspaper has more on this development here including a response from Irish Ferries (freight website) and Stena Line (also freight)

Afloat adds for more information on Un-accompanied trailers, HGV drivers and passengers (Afloat also adds only motorist based) click Seatruck's statement on Covid-19 here. In addition to information for car passengers click here.

For an insight into ro-ro freight operations Afloat's 'Ferry Captain Interview' featured the Seatruck Pace when serving on the Heysham route. The P-class currently operates on the Dublin/Liverpool route. 

Published in Ferry
Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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Ferry & Car Ferry News The ferry industry on the Irish Sea, is just like any other sector of the shipping industry, in that it is made up of a myriad of ship operators, owners, managers, charterers all contributing to providing a network of routes carried out by a variety of ships designed for different albeit similar purposes.

All this ferry activity involves conventional ferry tonnage, 'ro-pax', where the vessel's primary design is to carry more freight capacity rather than passengers. This is in some cases though, is in complete variance to the fast ferry craft where they carry many more passengers and charging a premium.

In reporting the ferry scene, we examine the constantly changing trends of this sector, as rival ferry operators are competing in an intensive environment, battling out for market share following the fallout of the economic crisis. All this has consequences some immediately felt, while at times, the effects can be drawn out over time, leading to the expense of others, through reduced competition or takeover or even face complete removal from the marketplace, as witnessed in recent years.

Arising from these challenging times, there are of course winners and losers, as exemplified in the trend to run high-speed ferry craft only during the peak-season summer months and on shorter distance routes. In addition, where fastcraft had once dominated the ferry scene, during the heady days from the mid-90's onwards, they have been replaced by recent newcomers in the form of the 'fast ferry' and with increased levels of luxury, yet seeming to form as a cost-effective alternative.

Irish Sea Ferry Routes

Irrespective of the type of vessel deployed on Irish Sea routes (between 2-9 hours), it is the ferry companies that keep the wheels of industry moving as freight vehicles literally (roll-on and roll-off) ships coupled with motoring tourists and the humble 'foot' passenger transported 363 days a year.

As such the exclusive freight-only operators provide important trading routes between Ireland and the UK, where the freight haulage customer is 'king' to generating year-round revenue to the ferry operator. However, custom built tonnage entering service in recent years has exceeded the level of capacity of the Irish Sea in certain quarters of the freight market.

A prime example of the necessity for trade in which we consumers often expect daily, though arguably question how it reached our shores, is the delivery of just in time perishable products to fill our supermarket shelves.

A visual manifestation of this is the arrival every morning and evening into our main ports, where a combination of ferries, ro-pax vessels and fast-craft all descend at the same time. In essence this a marine version to our road-based rush hour traffic going in and out along the commuter belts.

Across the Celtic Sea, the ferry scene coverage is also about those overnight direct ferry routes from Ireland connecting the north-western French ports in Brittany and Normandy.

Due to the seasonality of these routes to Europe, the ferry scene may be in the majority running between February to November, however by no means does this lessen operator competition.

Noting there have been plans over the years to run a direct Irish –Iberian ferry service, which would open up existing and develop new freight markets. Should a direct service open, it would bring new opportunities also for holidaymakers, where Spain is the most visited country in the EU visited by Irish holidaymakers ... heading for the sun!

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