Friday 20 September 2019

Air route: Our capacity to go around UK is limited, report finds

The alternative of air freight is expensive, aircraft are currently used only to ship the most valuable products. Stock photo: Thinkstock
The alternative of air freight is expensive, aircraft are currently used only to ship the most valuable products. Stock photo: Thinkstock
Donal O'Donovan

Donal O'Donovan

Ireland's ability to go around the UK in the event of a hard Brexit by airlifting freight is limited by capacity constraints, as well as the higher cost of air cargo, according to research prepared for Government.

Two-thirds of Irish goods exports to the continent cross Britain using the so-called landbridge - British roads connecting ports on the Irish Sea to the English Channel.

The threat of a hard Brexit has cast doubt on whether Irish importers and exporters will continue to have access to the route - which is plugged directly to a Continental network of freight routes.

Goods from Ireland currently reach France in 20 hours - half the time it would take to travel by sea.

For some products - including fresh fish, fresh agri-foods and some must-have mechanical parts - the slower sea option may be too slow, according to a report by the Irish Maritime Development Office on the 'Implications of Brexit on use of the Landbridge'.

The research found the average value of goods shipped to the continent via the UK is three times higher than goods sold into Britain.

The UK government this week said it will remain a member of the Common Transit Convention after Brexit, an agreement allowing trucks from a range of countries cross each other. Its some good news, but even at that, a reintroduction of customs posts and border controls will add time and costs, even if the landbridge remains open.

Perishable goods that would not survive longer journey times, such as fresh fish, meat and salads, as well as parts for 'just-in-time' manufacturing supply chains, would be hardest hit.

The alternative of air freight is expensive, aircraft are currently used only to ship the most valuable products. According to the Irish Maritime Development Office report, just 1pc by weight of Irish goods are exported by air - but that represents a staggering 35pc by value of goods sold.

Complicating matters, some of those goods go to the UK for sale or for onward freight through its air and sea ports.

If Ireland is squeezed by a hard Brexit, the capacity to increase air freight may be constrained anyway, especially in times of high demand, the report said.

Irish Independent

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