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Fear from Hauliers of Full Direct Ferries to EU if Brexit Checks Block UK routes

18th December 2020
An Oireachtas transport committee has been told that new customs checks and import controls at Irish ports due to Brexit will have huge implications and massive knock-on consequences for the road haulage industry. AFLOAT adds in preparation of post-Brexit, Stena Line recently deployed freight-only ferry Stena Foreteller for berthing trials at Rosslare Harbour (above) from where on 4 January, is to double frequency on the route to Cherbourg, France while also earlier that week, by two days, DFDS will launch a new direct freight-route too but connecting Dunkirk also in mainland Europe to avoid the UK 'land-bridge'. An Oireachtas transport committee has been told that new customs checks and import controls at Irish ports due to Brexit will have huge implications and massive knock-on consequences for the road haulage industry. AFLOAT adds in preparation of post-Brexit, Stena Line recently deployed freight-only ferry Stena Foreteller for berthing trials at Rosslare Harbour (above) from where on 4 January, is to double frequency on the route to Cherbourg, France while also earlier that week, by two days, DFDS will launch a new direct freight-route too but connecting Dunkirk also in mainland Europe to avoid the UK 'land-bridge'. Credit: Rosslare Europort-twitter

Insufficient ferry capacity may pose an issue, reports The Irish Times, on direct routes to mainland Europe if the key “landbridge” route through Britain becomes congested after Brexit, the haulage industry has warned.

Irish Road Haulage Association president Eugene Drennan told the Oireachtas transport committee that hauliers carrying time-sensitive loads such as food were concerned that existing and new direct ferry services to mainland Europe may be full after Brexit on January 1st.

“There is a big fear amongst hauliers who are going with all sorts of fresh produce - meat, chicken, poultry - that they won’t get a booking,” he said,

The committee heard from the haulage industry and shipping companies Brittany Ferries and DFDS about concerns over traffic congestion at Dublin Port arising from new border control checks on goods moving to and from Britain after Brexit comes into effect.

Aidan Coffey, Irish route director of DFDS, said there had been a significant number of pre-bookings on its new direct route between Rosslare and Dunkirk starting on January 2nd.

“The capacity will be outstripped quite early,” he said.

Brittany Ferries chief executive Christophe Mathieu said that the ferry company would consider increasing its services from Cork and Rosslare to France and Spain after Brexit if there is greater demand from freight companies to avoid the British landbridge.

For further reading including mitigating risks in transporting trade click here in addition critism of a recent IMDO report on shipping. 

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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