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Foreign Affairs Minister Addresses IEA Brexit Webinar with Update on EU-UK Negotiations

15th October 2020
Foreign Affairs Minster Simon Coveney addressed an IEA's Brexit webinar to update on EU-UK negotiations, Brexit readiness and what exporters/importers can expect from 1 January 2021. Above Afloat's photo of ro-ro freight-ferries in close proximity on the Dublin Bay horizon. Foreign Affairs Minster Simon Coveney addressed an IEA's Brexit webinar to update on EU-UK negotiations, Brexit readiness and what exporters/importers can expect from 1 January 2021. Above Afloat's photo of ro-ro freight-ferries in close proximity on the Dublin Bay horizon. Photo: Jehan Ashmore

Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence Simon Coveney TD addressed members of the Irish Exports Association (IEA) during a webiner to give an update on EU-UK negotiations, Brexit readiness and what exporters and importers can expect from 1 January 2021.

The IEA webinar is timely given that EU leaders will meet later this week to take stock of the implementation of the withdrawal agreement and review the state of negotiations. It is expected that leaders will also discuss preparatory work for the end of the transition period on 31 December 2020.

Brexit readiness was the key message delivered by the Minister. Minister Coveney urged IEA members to analyse their operations, understand where issues may arise and make haste to address them. IEA CEO Simon McKeever explained to attendees that the IEA has been actively working with Government through the various stakeholder groups it contributes to, including the Brexit Stakeholders Forum.

Following (yesterday's) webinar Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for Defence, Simon Coveney TD commented: “With less than three months to go until the end of the transition period, it is essential that all stakeholders, particularly in the business community, urgently revisit their Brexit readiness plans. Any business that moves goods from, to or through Great Britain will be subject to a range of customs formalities, SPS checks and other regulatory requirements that do not apply to such trade today. The ongoing negotiations on the future relationship will not remove the need for these formalities.

Businesses need to prepare now to Brexit-proof their operations. There are a range of Government supports to assist with this, including financial, upskilling and advisory supports. Details on these supports are provided in the Government’s Brexit Readiness Action Plan and I would encourage businesses to consult the plan and to avail of the supports provided. Further funding and supports were provided in Budget 2021 to respond to the twin threats of Brexit and COVID-19.”

Irish Exporters Association Chief Executive, Simon McKeever added: “I would like to thank Minister Coveney for the time he has afforded us this morning and for his ongoing support to Irish businesses, in particular exporters, throughout the Brexit process. Minister Coveney has been receptive to the needs of Irish exporters, in particular we would like to acknowledge the efforts being made to bring the negotiations back into the mindset of businesses and ensure that Brexit readiness forms an intrinsic part of businesses planning going forward.

Our key message to members and the wider businesses community is that changes to trading arrangements with the UK are inevitable from 1 January 2021. While there are still many unknowns in terms of negotiations and UK preparedness, we do know that trading arrangements will not be as seamless as we currently experience and businesses can prepare but need to act now to ensure that systems are put in place to keep trade flowing to and through the UK.”

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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