Wednesday, 24 March 2021

Ceisteanna (379)

Ruairí Ó Murchú

Ceist:

379. Deputy Ruairí Ó Murchú asked the Minister for Transport the implications following Brexit in regard to the UK land bridge and the supply chain; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [1845/21]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Transport)

A key priority for my Department in the lead up to the end of the transition period was to ensure continued freight connectivity with both our UK and EU markets. Over the first two months of 2021 we have seen substantial changes in volumes and flows in these markets as businesses reacted and adjusted to the new trading environment.

Analyses by the Irish Maritime Development Office for my Department shows that for the first two months of 2021 there was a decline of 39% in the number of Roll-on / Roll-off trailer units on Ireland-GB routes (including 50% on the Holyhead – Dublin route) when compared to the same period in 2020.

The analyses indicated an increase in the number of trailer units of 78% on direct Ireland – EU routes. It estimated an overall decline in RoRo units to and from Ireland of 20%.  The IMDO concluded this overall decline can be attributed to two main issues: economic factors (e.g. stockpiling in Q4 2020, covid supressed demand) and shifting trade patterns.

The most noted impact is the decline on the Central and Southern Corridors with the biggest impact, in volume terms, on Dublin Port. This is partly explained by the volumes in some cases using NI ports rather than Dublin, by the diversion of GB Landbridge traffic to direct services, and also the impacts of stockpiling in Q4 2020. The overall situation is seriously impacted by Covid and the collapse in passenger numbers.

The drop in volumes on these corridors are of particular concern to my Department. Prior to 1 January 2021, the GB Landbridge was the preferred route to EU markets for accompanied RoRo traffic as it was the most reliable and the shortest route to continental EU markets. Since the 1 January, we have seen a considerable transfer of this traffic to direct routes to continental ports.

The available capacity provided by shipping companies to facilitate this transfer is very welcome and I expect that increased volumes on these direct services will remain a feature of the future. However, from a national perspective, the Central and Southern routes are also of strategic importance to Ireland for accessing GB markets and also as a viable option for continuing trade with the EU via the GB Landbridge.

Concerns around transiting the Landbridge have been raised on a number of occasions with my Department, including in our Shipping Stakeholder Forum and our Haulage and Logistics Stakeholder forum. The UK’s accession to the Common Transit Convention (CTC) allows EU goods to transit through the UK without undergoing full customs import and export formalities on entry and exit from the UK. To avail of the benefits of the CTC, there are certain new requirements, including new paperwork, as well as the need for each consignment to have a financial guarantee in place to cover the potential customs duties and other taxes at risk during the movement.

Ireland continues to work with neighbouring Member States and the European Commission to ensure that the UK landbridge remains a viable route to market for Irish traders including most recently a meeting between French and Irish officials to review experiences in the first two months after Brexit. There is also ongoing contact between Irish and Welsh officials on Brexit issues arising, including in relation to the use of the Landbridge.

In relation to the new border controls, the relevant State agencies continue to work around the clock to ensure trade can flow to the greatest extent possible. Where difficulties have arisen for users in specific cases, the State agencies are engaging directly – whether with the companies, representative organisations or individual drivers – to get the issues resolved.