In advance of the end of the Brexit transition, my Department in conjunction with the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO), undertook a major communications campaign urging business using the GB landbridge to consider a switch to direct routes which would avoid the new control regimes. This campaign was also supported by the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Trade, Business Enterprise and Innovation and Agriculture, Food and the Marine.
This communication campaign served to reinforce the message that there is maritime capacity available to transport goods directly to Continental Europe and that these options are many and varied across different modalities (ro-ro, con-ro, lo-lo) providing both accompanied and unaccompanied options to exporters.
We have witnessed throughout 2020 and at the beginning of 2021 an unprecedented response from the shipping industry in terms of increasing capacity to match market demand. It has occurred across all relevant modes and has drawn from all available responses. These responses include (1) utilization of surplus capacity, (2) increasing capacity by altering schedules, (3) redeploying vessels within their fleets, and (4) adding new capacity in the form of additional vessels.
Number of Sailings
As of January 2021, there are around 60 RoRo freight sailings between Ireland and the Continent in a typical week. This includes five shipping operators, Irish Ferries, Stena Line, DFDS, Brittany Ferries and CLDN offering both accompanied and unaccompanied freight. This represents an increase of around 34 sailings per week, or around 130% increase in continental RoRo frequency compared to January 2020.
Specifically in relation to sailings between Ireland and France, in January 2020, there were 12 weekly sailings to and from Northern France. These were provided by Irish Ferries and Stena Line to the port of Cherbourg (not including the seasonal service operated by Brittany Ferries to Roscoff). In the last 12 months, the number of sailings to Northern France has increased by 22. Based on published schedules, there are now over 30 sailings per week to and from the ports of Dunkerque and Cherbourg, provided by Stena Line, Irish Ferries, DFDS and Brittany Ferries.
The increase in choice and frequency in the RoRo freight market over the past year has had a very significant impact on freight capacity to continental EU ports. Weekly RoRo freight capacity to continental EU ports has doubled in the past 12 months. There is now capacity for approximately 5,000 additional HGVs & unaccompanied trailers on continental RoRo services per week in January 2021.
The largest increase in capacity has come on RoRo services to Northern France. In January 2020, capacity to Northern France represented 35% of all continental EU capacity. As of January 2021, it now accounts for 49%.
Unaccompanied RoRo freight is an essential component of continental RoRo capacity. In 2020, unaccompanied RoRo freight made up over 80% of all continental RoRo volume.
Details of growth in direct services
Details on additional capacity added on direct services since 1 January 2021 include the following:-
- On 10 December 2020, Stena Line announced an additional ship on the Rosslare to Cherbourg route, doubling their capacity and frequency of sailings from January 4th.
- Irish Ferries and Stena changed their schedules to minimise overlapping so that a daily RoRo services from Ireland to Cherbourg was provided from January 2021.
- DFDS launched a new service from Rosslare to Dunkerque from 2 January 2021. There are six weekly departures from each port with a crossing time of 24 hours and capacity for up to 125 HGVs.
- CldN have added a second weekly call from Cork to Zeebrugge to cope with the increasing demand on this route which commenced on January 8th;
- Irish Ferries swopped their larger ship, the WB Yeats, from the Dublin /Holyhead to the Dublin-Cherbourg route from January 6th, 2021, substantially increasing capacity on this route. Also, the Epsilon will operate on a temporary basis with one rotation on weekends where there is increased demand on the Dublin-Cherbourg route.
- On January 13th Stena Line announced it was swapping the Stena Horizon with their new ship the Stena Embla on the Rosslare/Cherbourg route with immediate effect.
- On January 16th Stena also announced they were commencing a new Saturday service from Dublin to Cherbourg commencing on 25th January. This will be kept under review based on demand.
- Brittany Ferries brought forward their once weekly sailing from Rosslare to Cherbourg from March 2021 to January 18th, 2021.
- New LOLO service operated by Samskip will commence on the Dublin-Amsterdam route from January 25th, 2021.
These new sailings are in addition to a number of other new services and increased sailings that came on stream over last Summer, including new RoRo services from Ireland to Zeebrugge, Santander and Portugal by CLDN.