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Welsh Government Fears Brexit Delays Notably at Holyhead

11th December 2020
Holyhead Port is the second busiest roll-on/roll-off freight ferry port in the UK after the Port of Dover in Kent Holyhead Port is the second busiest roll-on/roll-off freight ferry port in the UK after the Port of Dover in Kent

A UK parliament committee has said it is deeply concerned that no decision has been made on the location of customs facilities for the ports of Holyhead, Fishguard and Pembroke - with just 21 days left before the end of the Brexit transition period.

The Port of Holyhead is the second busiest roll-on/roll-off freight ferry port in the UK (after Dover) and about half of the outbound freight from Dublin Port passes through it.

The confused state of customs preparation on the UK side could result in long delays for Irish truck drivers moving goods in and out of the country.

The Welsh government has prepared contingency plans in case facilities are not ready, including a plan to stack lines of trucks along the A55, which is the main road from the port that stretches across north Wales.

From 1 January, the UK will be outside the EU Customs Union and full customs procedures will apply to goods moving between Ireland and Great Britain.

The British government has decided to introduce customs and food safety checks in three phases between January and July mainly because the computer systems to process the extra customs paperwork are not ready and the physical facilities to carry out customs checks have not been built.

In a report published today, the Welsh Affairs Committee of the UK parliament said that even with a delay on introducing full scale customs checks until July, "there is an unacceptable level of risk that facilities will not be ready in either North or South West Wales for the full introduction of border checks and processes in July 2021".

For much more RTE reports on the Irish Sea routes and associated UK 'land-bridge'.

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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