The 2018 Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) report on the Implications of Brexit on the use of the Landbridge https://www.imdo.ie/Home/site-area/news-events/implications-brexit-use-landbridge acknowledges that “for Ireland, maritime links represent a key means of ensuring its direct connectivity with mainland Europe, particularly in view of the uncertain evolution of trade flows passing over the United Kingdom 'land bridge'. The viability of the ongoing use of the landbridge route to access the single market in a no deal Brexit scenario is a serious concern for Irish importers and exporters and the impact of any disruption to the landbridge cannot be predicted with any degree of certainty, particularly in a no-deal scenario.
My Department in conjunction with the IMDO, has consulted extensively with stakeholders regarding maritime capacity for direct sailings between Ireland and continental EU ports as a potential alternative route for trade currently using the Landbridge. Just this week (on 4 September 2019) a Workshop, organised by my Department and the IMDO, with some 90 participants drawn from importers, exporters, shipping companies, ports, shipping agents, and other key stakeholders, and focussed on this specific issue, was held in Dublin.
In the context of Brexit, there have already been significant market responses from the shipping companies adding additional freight capacity on direct ferry sailings to continental Europe including:-
- In 2018, CLdN launched MV Celine, the World’s largest RoRo vessel, and in 2019 launched the MV Laureline RoRo vessel, significantly increasing capacity on the Dublin–Rotterdam and Dublin -Zeebrugge routes.
- Irish Ferries' investment of €150 million in its newest passenger and freight vessel, MV W.B. Yeats, provides year-round freight capacity between Ireland and France of 165 HGVs per sailing or 60,600 HGVs per annum, and a vessel of similar size to the W.B. Yeats is due to be delivered on the Irish Sea routes in 2020.
- In May 2018, Brittany Ferries launched a direct route from Cork to Santander in northern Spain.
- In July 2019, BG Freight Line announced the commencement of a direct Waterford-Rotterdam weekly LoLo freight service, which will act as a deep-sea feeder through Rotterdam port and onwards to worldwide destinations.
These increases in capacity show the readiness of market participants to respond to shifts in trade patterns resulting from Brexit.
In a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit scenario, it will take some time for stakeholders, including importers and exporters, to fully adapt their supply chains, which are currently optimally arranged including through use of the UK landbridge in many cases, to the new situation. However, the assessment of my Department and the IMDO, based on extensive and ongoing consultations, including with the shipping sector, is that sufficient capacity should be available on direct routes to continental ports following a ‘No Deal’ Brexit and should demand for further capacity arise, the shipping sector can and will respond quickly to meet such demands.