As signalled since the publication of the report, The Implications of Brexit on the Use of the Landbridge, by the Irish Maritime Development Office, IMDO, in 2018, it has been a matter of continuing concern that there is likely to be disruption to access to the British land bridge when customs and border controls between the EU and the UK are introduced at the end of the year. Since the publication of the report, my Department, in conjunction with the IMDO, has been keeping the issue of direct shipping routes to the Continent under close review, particularly in the context of the Covid-19 pandemic. The IMDO recently reviewed the conclusions and recommendations in the 2018 study and the issue of direct maritime connectivity and capacity to continental Europe at the end of the transition period. The IMDO analysis shows there is more than sufficient capacity on existing direct services in the roll-on, roll off - ro-ro - network between Ireland and mainland Europe to cater, if required, for all of the land bridge traffic, which is currently estimated at approximately 150,000 trucks per annum. It is also considered that the shipping industry is resilient, responsive and capable, without State intervention, of adjusting to and satisfying market demand.
My Department has had very regular discussions with shipping companies and other maritime stakeholders about this issue since January 2019. We have consistently received strong assurances from the shipping companies that if there is an increase in demand for shipping capacity on direct routes to continental Europe, they will respond. Significant additional shipping links have been added on direct routes to the Continent, even during the Covid-19 pandemic in summer 2020, with further improvements and increases in capacity announced to take place from January next. Indeed, in the past week, we have seen moves from Irish Ferries and Stena Line to change and increase their direct sailings to Cherbourg from January. Those changes mean that, between them, there will be a daily service from Ireland to France, resulting in a further increase in capacity on that direct continental Europe route.
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The Minister and I met with the shipping companies regarding maritime connectivity in mid-July of this year. I met with them again recently to discuss this issue further. The companies confirmed the reassurance already given regarding their ability to respond to demand as needed. This engagement is in addition to the fortnightly meetings which take place between officials in my Department and the shipping companies as well as separately with haulage representatives. My Department has also had confidential briefings with individual shipping companies in which they have outlined a range of options they can implement quickly from January, if required.
The Government considers that direct State intervention to establish State shipping links in the context of Brexit would likely undermine a market response and result in an insufficient, inadequate and costly intervention being put in place. Such an intervention would be likely to result in legal challenges from incumbent shipping providers, breaches of EU state aid rules and consequent requirements for repayment of the state aids with interest, with resulting adverse impacts on the viability of any companies receiving such aid. It could also create difficulties for the State in extricating itself from the shipping market.
A communications campaign is currently under way, ACT Now and Prepare to Switch, which encourages importers and exporters to focus immediately on the direct route option. The campaign encourages stakeholders to assess their current routes to market, communicate their future needs clearly to shipping companies and trial alternative services in order that disruption to the British land bridge route does not preclude Irish businesses from accessing foreign markets.
My Department will continue to closely monitor and review the evolving situation regarding maritime connectivity to continental ports. We will remain in close consultation with the maritime sector and other relevant stakeholders on this issue.