Volumes of goods shipped directly from Ireland to the EU on new Brexit-busting ferry routes have rocketed by 50% in the past six months as exporters seek to avoid travelling across land through Great Britain, according to official data.
Figures published by the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) show significant traffic diverted away from the traditional routes between Dublin and Britain to some of 32 new ferry services direct to ports such as Le Havre, Cherbourg and Dunkirk in France and Zeebrugge in Belgium.
The IMDO report shows freight volumes from Dublin port to Liverpool and Holyhead in Anglesey down 19% in the first three-quarters of 2021 compared with 2020 and down by 30% on the two routes from Rosslare in south-east Ireland to the Welsh ports of Pembroke and Fishguard.
“It is clear that the new trading arrangements between Ireland and the UK have had a significant and negative effect upon ro-ro [roll-on roll-off lorry haulage] freight traffic between the two countries,” the IMDO report said. “Underpinning all of these trends are the new customs and trading arrangements between Ireland and the UK that came into force on 1 January 2021,” it added.
“One-third of all ro-ro in the Republic of Ireland now operates on direct routes to ports in the European Union, up from a 16% share in 2019,” the IMDO said.
Traffic for the second and third quarters of this year show Irish Republic to EU traffic is already up by 52% compared with the entirety of 2019, it added.
The decline in demand for the ferry services to Wales and Liverpool has also seen Northern Irish ports receiving a Brexit dividend, with freight volumes hitting “unprecedented highs in 2021”.
Historically, Northern Irish hauliers have preferred the Dublin-Holyhead route as the quickest way to access markets in the south and south-east of England, but some have now eschewed the route “to avoid the new customs requirements involved between Ireland and UK ports”, the reports said.
It has meant an uplift in traffic in Northern Ireland’s three ports, with a 15% rise in Belfast, 18% in Larne and 20% at Warrenpoint.
The rise in the number of ferry services going direct to France, from 12 before Brexit to 44 in 2021, along with concern about possible delays over customs checks in Dover and Calais, has helped fuel the diversion of trade from the Republic direct to the continent.
Rosslare Europort has benefited most. It is now taking 49% of EU traffic, with another 49% going through Dublin and 2% via Cork.
On Saturday, Rosslare Europort said, it had its busiest day in its history. Its general manager, Glenn Carr, put the increased demand down to the desire to avoid the UK, but also a reduction in trade with Great Britain because of Brexit red tape and cost.
“In particular industries, we’re definitely seeing where traditionally a lot of goods were sourced in the UK or exported to the UK, there’s been a switch to Europe,” he told journal.ie. “We definitely see it in the port in terms of the mix of goods that are there now – ingredients, food, dairy, pharmaceuticals.”