Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees
Monday, 22 March 2021
Seanad Committee on the Withdrawal of the United Kingdom from the European Union
Impact of Brexit on Business Sector
Mr. Damien Roche:
On the land bridge situation, following this meeting I will join a shipping line conference call. One of the quotes I heard from one of its sales personnel is, "The route out of Rosslare on one of the ferry lines [I will not mention which one] is on a life support machine." That is how slow movement is from Ireland directly to Europe. The volume being transported via the UK over the land bridge is not happening and it is still not enough capacity to bypass the UK. In response to us getting goods to Northern Ireland, Border Force is giving free transit guarantees from Pembroke-Fishguard-Holyhead to get us into Rosslare and up to the North, but when we are in the North we might have to go to Belfast Port even though the delivery point might be before Belfast Port. The transit guarantee that is implemented by Revenue and the cost of implementing that for small and medium sized businesses, and even big businesses, are not practical. They are not interested. They are trying to push the haulage industry to circumvent the UK completely. In terms of what needs to be done to help save the UK-Ireland ferry services, we need to try to get some of the shipments that are going onto mainland Europe to go back through the land bridge. We need to come up with a solution that includes a transit guarantee to get from Ireland via the UK and into mainland Europe that is not so cost prohibitive. This is what everyone is trying to drive through Rosslare into Cherbourg. There are shipments coming from mainland Germany to Cherbourg to access Rosslare. That has never been heard of. Nobody should have to do that, but that is what is happening.
The shipping line services that are helping UK-Ireland traffic and European business moving through the land bridge are dramatically down and there are not enough ferries to get goods from Ireland directly onto mainland Europe. The shipping lines are feeling the pinch in that regard. One of the shipping lines is down to one round trip per day when previously it was doing two round trips per day. That is how much volumes have dropped. We need to come up with a solution for the land bridge system and how we can make it more cost-effective and for Revenue or the Government to come up with a solution to guarantee vehicles going on the mainland of Europe while also ensuring they are not caught up in Dover having put all of this in place. There is no point in us being caught up in Dover like everybody else. I do not know how quick that system is working but from an Irish point of view, one local haulier in Wexford has not used Rosslare-Fishguard or Rosslare-Pembroke since 1 January. He has moved every trailer onto mainland Europe, up as far as Denmark. He is shipping out of Cherbourg. The Irish exporter suffers the cost in that regard because the haulier has to pass it back.