Thursday, 11 July 2019
Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport
827. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the meetings he has had with shipping companies in the context of Brexit and preparing for all possible outcomes; his views on the potential need for increased capacity for direct shipping access to and from mainland Europe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31362/19]
Brexit has been identified as my Department’s highest strategic risk and my Department along with other Government Departments and key Agencies, has been preparing for Brexit for three years. My Department has been consulting extensively with the Maritime sector, including shipping, port and other key maritime stakeholders, regarding Brexit issues on an ongoing basis. These consultations have included a Transport and Logistics All Island Sectorial meeting in Dundalk in January 2017, three Brexit Maritime Transport Workshops / Seminars (in April 2017, March 2018, and January 2019) with a further Maritime Transport Workshop / Seminar planned for September 2019.
Eight meetings have been held specifically with shipping companies and shipping interests in January and February 2019 alone, and these discussions with shipping companies have been continued by my Department since then as well by the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) who report to my Department.
The 2018 IMDO report on the Implications Of Brexit On The Use Of The 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.
The assessment of my Department and the IMDO, based on extensive and ongoing consultations 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 respond quickly to meet such demands.
In the context of Brexit, there has already been a significant market response evidencing the capacity of market participants to respond to shifts in trade patterns resulting from Brexit. 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 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. This additional capacity alone will be sufficient to cater for a substantial switch of UK landbridge traffic to direct links to EU ports, should such a demand arise. Also, in May 2018, Brittany Ferries' launched a direct route from Cork to Santander in northern Spain, and a vessel of similar size to the W.B. Yeats is due to be delivered on the Irish Sea routes in 2020.
Furthermore, as announced this week, BG Freight Line is commencing a direct Waterford-Rotterdam weekly LoLo freight service, which will act as a deep-sea feeder through Rotterdam port and onwards to worldwide destinations for Irish importers and exporters.
If disruption is to arise, it would likely be most acute in the immediate period following a no-deal Brexit as a result of a short time lag between an increase in demand for direct connectivity to the Continent and a market response, as shipping companies assess the actual difficulties and implement a response. The clear view of my Department and the IMDO is that the optimal solution in response to increased demand for extra capacity to continental Europe in a ‘No-Deal’ Brexit scenario is for industry to respond to market changes in a timely manner.
Overall, this has been happening to date as I have set out above. A number of actions are being implemented by my Department and the IMDO to encourage this responsiveness. These will include a focussed awareness campaign by early September aimed at shipping companies, importers and exporters to create a dialogue between them to identify any new market demands as early as possible.
828. To ask the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport the meetings he has had with haulage companies in the context of Brexit and the potential for delays at Dover and Calais; his plans to assist the sector and avoid delays at ports particularly in the event of a no-deal Brexit; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [31363/19]
My Department has maintained close contact with road haulage stakeholders including the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA), the Freight Transport Association of Ireland (FTAI), IBEC, the Irish Exporters Association and the British-Irish Chambers of Commerce in the context of Brexit and continues to work with the industry representative bodies in order to keep hauliers and business informed of developments, in keeping with our long-established practice.
Most recently, two meetings, instigated by my Department, were held in late May with representatives of the FTAI and the IRHA respectively, to discuss Brexit and the whole-of-Government and importantly industry preparations as we approach 31 October. The readiness of the haulage sector, the introduction of additional customs controls and SPS checks East/West, and the temporary EU contingency Regulation aimed at ensuring basic road freight connectivity between the EU and UK were discussed.
My Department hosted a Brexit Freight Forum with key road transport and maritime stakeholders including haulage industry representative bodies on 21 January 2019. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, the Revenue Commissioners and the Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine were also in attendance and addressed the Forum. My Department also previously held a similar Brexit Freight Forum in March 2018.
In February and also in March, my Department was represented at the Irish Retail Grocery and Distribution Sector Roundtable hosted by the Department of Business, Enterprise and Innovation and engagement with this sector, including haulage industry representatives, is continuing.
In March, my Department issued a comprehensive Brexit Communications Notice to all licensed international road haulage operators outlining the position on a range of transport issues which would arise in the event of a no-deal Brexit. This notice is published on my Department’s website and the information available online will continue to be updated to keep industry stakeholders informed of Brexit developments.
A very important development to note is that the EU has adopted Regulation (EU) 2019/501 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 March 2019, which will ensure the maintenance of basic road connectivity for road freight transport in the event of a no deal Brexit. This temporary measure, effective until 31 December 2019, allows UK hauliers to continue to access the EU on the basis that the UK gives reciprocal access to EU companies and operators. This Regulation is currently due to expire on 31 December and over the coming months, Ireland and other EU Member States will engage further with the Commission on this measure.
The Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) study into the implications of Brexit on the use of the landbridge, published in November 2018, estimated that approximately 150,000 Heavy Goods Vehicles (HGVs) travel between Ireland and the continent via the landbridge each year. This would equate to a weekly average of approximately 2,880 HGVs moving between Ireland and the continent via the landbridge, although there can be peak times within each week, and also on a seasonal basis. A cross-departmental Landbridge Project Group, chaired by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade, was established in October 2017 and has been working on measures aimed at ensuring the ongoing effective and efficient use of the landbridge post-Brexit, including the key Dover-Calais route. My Department is represented on this Group and engagement with our EU partners to find solutions to minimise the potential disruption to Irish hauliers’ access to and through the UK in the event of a no deal Brexit continues.
The Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport, along with other Government Departments, has emphasised the importance of stakeholders taking all necessary steps within their control to prepare for Brexit, including undertaking contingency planning to minimise the impact of Brexit on their operations. I would encourage road haulage operators to refer to the European Commission’s published Notices to Stakeholders in the field of road transport, the EU’s basic road connectivity contingency Regulation, the Brexit section on my Department’s website and gov.ie/Brexit.