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Brexit has redrawn the shipping map for Irish freight trade with Britain 

A third of all roll-on/roll-off traffic in the Republic of Ireland now operates on direct routes to European ports

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A ferry at sea. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

A ferry at sea. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

A ferry at sea. Picture: Steve Parsons/PA Wire

Brexit has led to a dramatic drop in freight volumes between Ireland and Britain and a diversion of trade from Irish ports to Northern Ireland and to direct EU routes, new data confirms.

While there has been no overall loss of trade to Irish ports, there has been a “reconfiguration” as a result of Brexit, according to the latest quarterly traffic report from the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO).

It shows that roll-on/roll-off trade between Ireland and Britain – or RoRo, where loaded trucks drive cargo on and off ships – collapsed by around a third in the first half of this year, compared to the same period in 2019.

Traffic between Ireland and Britain now makes up just two-thirds of all Irish freight volumes, compared to 84pc two years ago, according to the IMDO’s Unitised Traffic Report for the second quarter of 2021.

Northern Ireland's RoRo traffic was the busiest it has ever been between April and July this year.

The figures tally with what hauliers and ferry operators have been saying for months.

The Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) has repeatedly called for less onerous customs clearance requirements in Dublin Port, saying authorities there are applying EU rules too strictly and are mismanaging the space available at the docks.

“The Department of Agriculture is being overzealous with the rules and there is hassle at the dock area,” IRHA president Eugene Drennan told the Irish Independent. “That causes a huge time lag and it costs.

“The trade is gone to the North because of the time and the cost.”

The IMDO report shows freight volumes between Ireland and Britain fell by 29pc in the first half of this year, from 500,450 RoRo units in the first half of 2019 to 355,242 units in January to June this year.

Meanwhile, RoRo traffic from Northern Irish ports - Belfast, Larne and Warrenpoint - rose by 11pc in the second quarter of 2021, compared to the same period in 2019, or 460,991 RoRo units so far this year compared to 424,847 in 2019.

A third of all RoRo traffic in the Republic of Ireland now operates on direct routes to European ports, double the share in the second quarter of 2019, with the second quarter of this year the busiest on record for direct routes from Ireland to Europe.

There were 93,087 RoRo units carried from all Irish ports to the EU in the first half of 2019 compared to 183,809 in the same period in 2021, a rise of 97pc.

Rosslare port has been the big winner, with EU traffic rising by more than 20,000 units in volume terms between April and June 2021, compared to the same period in 2019, while its traffic with Britain declined by roughly 14,000 units.

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“Brexit has had a significant effect on RoRo traffic on the island of Ireland,” the report says.

"From early 2021, it was clear that haulage companies based in Northern Ireland had transferred some traffic away from RoRo services in ROI [the Republic of Ireland] in order to avoid the new customs requirements involved between Ireland and UK ports.”


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