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Sea freight ‘nightmare’ pushing haulage sector to the brink


Freight lorries at Rosslare Europort in Co. Wexford. Photo: PA

Freight lorries at Rosslare Europort in Co. Wexford. Photo: PA

Freight lorries at Rosslare Europort in Co. Wexford. Photo: PA

Serious difficulties around the transport of goods between Britain and Ireland are threatening to bring the haulage sector to its knees, Wexford TD, Verona Murphy, has warned.

A combination of complicated customs documentation, system overbookings, delays in getting trucks back out of Britain, and insufficient capacity on the direct ferry routes from Ireland to the Continent is steadily choking the country’s export capability, deputy Murphy claimed.

She pointed out that 54 trucks had failed to make it onto ferries leaving Rosslare for the Continent last Friday, with many lorries left stranded in the Wexford port over the weekend – 25 were taken on a Saturday sailing, while the remaining 29 trucks were not taken until Monday night.

It is understood that some of the country’s leading supermarkets – including Tesco, Marks & Spencer, Dunnes Stores and Supervalu – were affected by the delays; while Lidl and Aldi avoided the brunt of the disruption as, heretofore, they were less dependent on the UK land bridge.

Cormac Healy of Meat Industry Ireland (MII) told the Farming Independent said that a number of beef and lamb processors had reported difficulties getting trucks onto direct ferries to Europe.

These problems have been exacerbated by the recent surge in Covid-19. The number of trucks that can be carried on some freight vessels has been halved as a consequence, since drivers cannot share cabins during the sailing because of the risk of spreading the virus.

This has undermined the impact of the additional ships introduced over the last two months on direct routes out of Ireland to Europe, Mr Healy explained.

Deputy Murphy said truckloads of meat and fish had been delayed in Rosslare, and she was aware of a large consignment of mussels failing it to make it onto a ferry.

“Those mussels could well have to be dumped. While the beef and fish is reducing in value every day delivery is delayed,” she explained.

The Wexford TD pointed out that direct freight from Rosslare to Europe had increased by 500pc and that additional shipping capacity was required.

Complex custom documentation and clearance procedures have added to hauliers’ problems, she claimed.

She cited one example of 20 truckloads of perishable fresh food from Britain, destined for a leading Irish supermarket chain, which have been held up for days in Dublin Port because of incorrect paperwork.

“These are trucks full of pasta salads, sandwiches and fruit and vegetables. This is a disgraceful waste. You’re looking at significant value here, the transport cost alone is over €30,000. Ultimately, these costs are going to be passed on to consumers,” she added.

Deputy Murphy said such delays were not only happening with UK trucks in Ireland, but were also impacting Irish hauliers who were being similarly held up in Britain. She warned that Ireland could very soon be at a point where there are so many trucks and trailers delayed in Britain that the country’s capacity to move product off the island could be seriously compromised.

“There is a real threat of the haulage system collapsing both here and in Britain,” said deputy Murphy who will raise the issue during Leaders Questions in the Dail today.

‘UK nightmare’

Eugene Drennan of the Irish Road Haulage Association called for the customs documentation regime to be simplified and streamlined as a matter of urgency.

"There is a problem with capacity to get out to the continent direct; and Government thinking is really clogged on this. We’re only at a third capacity at the moment; we can’t get capacity in the right places at the right time.

"We need more direct daily services from Dublin and Rosslare to the continent, Irish Ferries have given some extra capacity but there is still demand for more.

"The Government has to respond very quickly because going to the UK with all the paperwork is a nightmare,” he said.

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Meanwhile, Glenn Carr, general manager at Rosslare Port said the challenges posed by the land bridge post-Brexit, together with Covid-19 restrictions, have seen “unprecedented demand” over recent days.

"The situation resulted in many hauliers issued with standby tickets arriving at the port in hoping to get on the ferries. This resulted in the port having to handle extra traffic to the already booked-out ferry services.

“The vast majority of these were accommodated on later sailings, but 20 trucks were unable to travel across the weekend arising from the excess demand.

"Our shipping operator provided complimentary meals and refreshments to those affected, and terminal facilities were also available to all affected.

“Demand remains high and measures have been put in place to restrict drivers coming to the port without committed bookings. Furthermore, we continue to engage with shipping operators to identify opportunities for further capacity and service increases,” he said.

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