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Government's Operational Update Reviews Trading Relationships Since Post-Brexit Transition

2nd February 2021
Operational Update from a Government review one month after the end of the Brexit transition period: Trade volumes on ROI/GB routes (above: an Irish Sea freight ferry) were 50% of those reported in January 2020, but continuing to gradually increase week by week. For much more including trading relationships to mainland Europe and impact of Covid-19, scroll down 'headings' below. Operational Update from a Government review one month after the end of the Brexit transition period: Trade volumes on ROI/GB routes (above: an Irish Sea freight ferry) were 50% of those reported in January 2020, but continuing to gradually increase week by week. For much more including trading relationships to mainland Europe and impact of Covid-19, scroll down 'headings' below. Credit: Seatruck Ferries-twitter

The Department of the Taoiseach has released an Operational update one-month on following the post-Brexit transition which includes highlighting the shipping trading relationships between Ireland-UK in addition developments of direct (in particular freight-ferry) connections with mainland Europe.

• Reduced trade volumes on ROI/GB routes

• Freight volumes on direct services to Europe up 100% on last year

• 80% of incoming freight vehicles are being green routed

• Government Departments and State Agencies continue to encourage businesses & individuals to engage with them as they navigate these new trading arrangements

• Business and trade reminded to identify & communicate with key players in their supply chain

• European Commission proposal allocates €1 billion from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve to Ireland.

At the end of January, and one month after the end of the Brexit transition period, trade volumes on ROI/GB routes were 50% of those reported in January 2020, but continuing to gradually increase week by week. There is no one issue contributing to the lower volumes, rather the combination of a number of factors including Brexit stockpiling, Covid-19 restrictions, new Brexit checks and controls and the emergence of new direct services with additional capacity on European routes - freight volumes on these services are up 100% on last year.

We are seeing a slow and steady increase in freight vehicle movements into Ireland from Great Britain – from 61 inbound movements on 1st-2nd January to a peak of 1,334 on 28th-29th January. There was an approximate 11% week on week increase in freight vehicle movements into Ireland from GB when we compare this week with last.

It is also important to note that of the freight vehicle movements coming through Irish ports, approximately 80% are green routed – meaning these trucks can leave the port immediately after arriving.

The challenge the new checks due to Brexit create for traders is fully acknowledged – and there is ongoing intensive engagement between Government Departments and agencies and stakeholder groups, sectoral representative bodies, businesses and individuals to assist them through the new processes.

Revenue, the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and the HSE have 24-hour operations at Dublin Port and helplines are available. In addition, intensive engagement continues with stakeholders across key sectors including hauliers and ferry companies, retail, enterprise and the agri-sector. Revenue and the Department of Agriculture Food and the Marine met again with the Irish Road Haulage Association on 29th January following an Oireachtas Committee hearing earlier this week.

Supports for businesses, including the Enterprise Ireland Ready for Customs grant of up to €9,000, remain open for applications and we would urge eligible companies trading to, from or through Great Britain, and who haven’t already engaged customs clearance staff to give the grant serious consideration.

Operations at Irish Ports & Trade Flows

New customs formalities and, where relevant, agri-food controls, are required now that Great Britain is fully outside the European Union and Single Market. These ensure that Ireland fulfils its obligations as a member of the EU, and they protect the integrity of the Single Market and the Customs Union.

However, the new requirements also mean that the seamless trading arrangements that pertained until the end of 2020 no longer exist.

New checks are inevitably taking additional time, but this time can be minimised through the completion of necessary procedures in advance. Business and trade are reminded of the importance of the submission of timely and accurate information, and of the support and advice available to them from the relevant state agencies.

The efforts and work of trade and business and their representative bodies in meeting the challenge of the UK departure from the EU are fully recognised.

• Since 1 January 2021, there have been almost 17,500 freight vehicle movements into Ireland, across 390 ferries, from Great Britain. In the same period, there have been almost 16,900 freight vehicle movements out of Ireland to Great Britain.

• Revenue has successfully processed approximately 760,000 import declarations of various types, including safety and security declarations. Additionally, approximately 155,200 export declarations for movements to Great Britain were also processed.

• A total of 7,230 calls to Revenue’s 24/7 Customs Helpline were answered for the period 1st January to 27th January.

Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Checks

In addition to customs procedures, the EU’s SPS rules now apply to all imports of animals, plants and products of animal and plant origin from Great Britain, just as they do to goods coming from other non-EU countries.

• The volume of goods requiring SPS import controls at both Dublin and Rosslare ports has been relatively low. However, and despite good efforts in general by operators to comply with EU requirements, there has been incidence of failure to comply with pre-notification and documentation requirements. This has led to the checks taking longer, or to some consignments being detained, until the issues could be resolved.

• Traders are reminded of the importance of registering with the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine and on the EU TRACES system, and of submitting all required documentation in a timely manner. Detailed advice and resources for businesses are available at

• Export certification requirements also have to be fulfilled for exports to and through Great Britain. These requirements are set by the UK authorities.

• The UK has adopted a phased approach to the introduction of import controls, with further phases commencing on 1st April and 1st July. Exporters are being urged to prepare for these changes now.

• The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine continues to provide advice and support to agri-food businesses at Border Control Posts and through a dedicated Brexit support line on 076 106 4443 and email [email protected]

• The HSE Environmental Health Service is responsible for food safety import controls on food products not of animal origin and some food contact materials. Most of these products are checked routinely however some are also subject to increased controls to ensure the correct documentation and certification has been submitted via the TRACES system.

• The HSE has approximately 100 Environmental Health Officers (EHOs) working between Dublin and Rosslare Ports. They are available 24/7 to process queries or answer any questions from importers.

• Since January 1st 2021 the HSE has processed almost 1,700 consignments of imported goods at Dublin and Rosslare Ports carrying out the required food safety checks. This week there has been a marked increase in volumes of goods being notified to EHOs, and this increase is expected to continue.

Key Challenges & Engagement

Government Departments and State Agencies recognise that the new trading arrangements with Great Britain represents the biggest change for trade and business in almost 50 years.

While many are successfully continuing to trade with Great Britain, mainly as a result of their levels of preparation ahead of 31st December, some businesses, large and small, are having difficulty, in some cases severe difficulty, adapting to the new system of controls.

Revenue, DAFM and the HSE have 24-hour operations at Dublin Port as well as a range of online support structures and helplines for businesses.

• Businesses experiencing difficulties need to look closely at their supply chain and talk to the other key players in their supply chain. It is absolutely necessary that everyone in the supply chain knows and understands their role and responsibilities – from the exporter, to the customs agent, to the importer, to the logistics, freight forwarder or haulage businesses, to the driver.

• Drivers and the goods they are moving can be delayed if certain information is not provided in advance of importation.

• When goods are held up, hauliers are dependent on either the importer or exporter or their agent to resolve the shortcomings in documentation before the goods can be cleared and moved from the port. As such, it is the responsibility of the importer or exporter or their agent to ensure the required information and channels of support are available to hauliers when goods are stopped.

• Businesses need to consider if increased alternative routes to EU markets present viable options for their businesses model.

• Businesses should consider sourcing EU suppliers.

Direct (Ferry) Routes & Additional Capacity

Through extensive engagement between Government Departments, agencies, ferry companies and hauliers, a series of new direct services and routes to European ports have come on stream. Not only has the number and frequency of services increased, additional capacity has also been secured.

Ferry companies have demonstrated flexibility and agility in their response to demand, and there is strong take up on the direct routes, with freight volumes on these services up 100% on last year.

• In January 2021, there are 62 RoRo freight sailings in a typical week. This includes all five shipping operators and both accompanied and unaccompanied freight. This represents an increase of 36 sailings per week, or a 138% increase in continental RoRo frequency compared to January 2020.

• In January 2020, there were 12 weekly sailings to Northern France. As of January 2021, there are now 36 sailings to Northern France.

• Weekly RoRo freight capacity to continental EU ports has doubled in the past 12 months.

• RoRo freight capacity is a function of vessel size and sailing frequency. In January 2020, there was capacity for approximately 5,000 HGVs & unaccompanied trailers, or roughly 80,000 freight lane metres. In January 2021, there is currently capacity for approximately 10,000 HGV’s & unaccompanied trailers, or roughly 170,000 lane metres.

• There are around 10 additional vessels now operating on the continental RoRo corridor, bringing the total to 17.

COVID-19 Testing for Hauliers

Since the formal decision from France for a negative antigen COVID-19 test for hauliers, the Government immediately activated its contingency plans so as to ensure no disruption to the movement of goods to and from the continent.

• The Department of Transport has established testing facilities for 1000 – 1500 hauliers per week within 7 days of notification from the French Government.

• These testing sites opened to accommodate free testing for drivers travelling on direct sailings from Ireland to France.

• In addition, and to ease access for hauliers, the Department has worked with Wexford County Council to identify and secure an additional site on the N25. This site will be open shortly.

Supply Chain

• Through engagement with transport and logistics companies, we are aware of problems and backlogs in the supply chain, particularly in GB. We know that the introduction of new import and export regulatory requirements alongside new checks and controls on trade between the EU and UK, excluding Northern Ireland, adds additional burdens on companies and our Departments and Agencies are continuing to engage with companies and haulage and logistics companies to help them work through these new checks and controls.

• The Department of Enterprise, Trade & Employment continues to engage closely with the retail sector, wholesalers and grocery distributors. through weekly meetings, and its Enterprise Information Centre helpline continues to assist businesses and consumers on a daily basis.

• Supply chains have been built up over time and will take time to readjust. Any isolated issues are being worked through and we continue to be assured by retailers that supply is robust and strong at shelf level and stores are well stocked.

• Businesses and consumers engaging in business online have been guided on complex issues of consumer rights and potential additional charges by ongoing updated advice from the Competition and Consumer Protection Commission (CCPC).

Brexit Adjustment Reserve

Earlier this month the European Commission published its proposal to allocate €1 billion from the Brexit Adjustment Reserve to Ireland. This was a welcome move and represents a good result for Ireland. The €1bn accounts for 25% of the initial allocation of €4.2bn for 2021, reflecting the unique, adverse and disproportionate impact of Brexit on Ireland, particularly on the fishing and agri-food sectors.

Oireachtas Engagement

The Oireachtas considered Brexit related issues over two days in January with the Taoiseach, Tánaiste, Minister for Foreign Affairs and Minister for European Affairs speaking on the motion of support for the Trade & Cooperation Agreement and the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for European Affairs and the Minister for Agriculture, Food & the Marine taking part in Question and Answer sessions the following day.

Published in Ports & Shipping
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

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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