Rosslare Europort may have taken a major step closer to obtaining tier one port status after being approved by the European Commission as a border control post for the importation of any agri-food, fish or live animal products. This will make Rosslare only the second sea port in the country to have these facilities.
Up until now, there hasn't been a major call for an increase in border controls. Only products arriving from a 'third country' (i.e. outside of the EU) require checks and there is no need for inspection if they've already passed through an EU country. However, with the clock ticking on Brexit, Britain could now be assigned 'third country' status, meaning all food products and animals arriving from the UK would have to be inspected.
With Dublin Port already operating at capacity, this represents a major opportunity for the growth of Rosslare Europort. As previously reported in this newspaper, the OPW have already obtained a 16 acre site in Rosslare where Department of Agriculture and Revenue officials will temporarily carry out checks, until facilities are constructed in the Europort itself.
'This can facilitate major growth for Rosslare,' said Fianna Fáil TD James Browne who raised the issue Dáil. 'This was one of the reasons why Rosslare wasn't given tier one status. If an access road was built, I would say not a whole lot else is needed to elevate Rosslare to tier one. This is hugely important for the port. Previously all agri food and live animals coming in had to go to Dublin. Rosslare can now be a better option. Dublin is already at maximum capacity anyway. They are already turning away cruise ships because they don't have the space for them which is ridiculous.'
In relation to the temporary site to be used for customs checks, at the site of the old Renault car distribution centre, a number of questions have been raised with it being situated some two kilometres from the port.
'In relation to how it will work, I don't know,' Deputy Browne said. 'Any traffic coming off the ferries would pass at least four exit roads before they get there.
'I don't know how they'll manage to maintain the integrity of the searches. I've questioned the Department and Minister Paschal Donohoe on it though and they're confident they can do it. It will remain to be seen.'
Equally, with Britain set to leave the EU this Friday following the recent extension, concerns have been expressed as to how quickly border control checks can be up and running.
'Minister (Michael) Creed has assured me that it will be ready to go,' said Deputy Browne. 'It seems to be an empty site at the moment, but the Minister maintains it will be ready. I know this will be a temporary site, so I'd imagine it will be mostly a matter of lifting in porta-cabins, but we'll have to wait and see what happens.'
With Rosslare set to become such an integral point of entry for post-Brexit Ireland, Deputy Browne has also once again called for further investment in facilities there.
'Iarnróid Eireann have pledged to invest €15million over five years there,' he said. 'While it's positive that they are investing, this is nowhere near enough. €147million is due to be invested in Dublin Port this year alone.
'I think the management of the port needs to be taken off of Ianróid Eireann and it needs to be set up as its own separate entity. How much business is being lost to this country each year over the fact that Rosslare is not being developed?'