Brexit forces major fall in shipping between Britain and Dublin Port

Dublin Port reports reduced cargo volumes from Holyhead, Liverpool and Heysham

Dublin Port: With a pick-up in European trade compensating for a fall-off in UK trade, overall trading volumes are down just 0.5 per cent. Photograph: Alan Betson

Dublin Port: With a pick-up in European trade compensating for a fall-off in UK trade, overall trading volumes are down just 0.5 per cent. Photograph: Alan Betson

 

Dublin Port has seen a major reduction in cargo volumes from British ports in the wake of Brexit.

The company that operates the State’s largest port said core freight and container volumes from Britain declined by 21.2 per cent to 537,680 units between January and September this year.

This was primarily as a result of reduced trade with the British ports of Holyhead, Liverpool and Heysham, it said.

In contrast, volumes on continental European routes increased by 36 per cent to 522,765 units.

As a result, unitised volumes on routes to Britain now account for just over a half (51 per cent) of all unitised trade where, before Brexit, they accounted for close to two-thirds (64 per cent).

With a pick-up in European trade compensating for a fall-off in UK trade, overall trading volumes through the port were down just 0.5 per cent for the period.

Many Irish firms are thought to have switched from using the UK as a landbridge into Europe for exports to going either directly to the continent or routing into Britain via Northern Ireland to avoid Brexit-related bureaucracy.

“After nine months, the impact of Brexit on the profile of Dublin Port’s trade has become clear, with volumes on unitised services to Great Britain declining by just over one-fifth while volumes on services to continental Europe increased by more than a third,” Dublin Port chief executive Eamonn O’Reilly said.

Unaccompanied trailers

“The movement of Irish trade to EU markets and away from the UK has also had the effect of reducing the number of trailers that move through Dublin Port which are driver-accompanied,” he said.

“ Over the nine months, nearly 60,000 loads which would have been driver-accompanied before Brexit were shipped as unaccompanied trailers. This is bad news from a port capacity perspective,” Mr O’Reilly said.

Separate Department of Agriculture figures reported on Monday show there has been a twentyfold increase in the number of consignments of food and plant products and live animals being processed by health inspectors at Irish ports since Brexit.

Despite the increased processing activity arising from new Brexit protocols, mass congestion at Irish ports has not materialised.

“The only positive thing we have seen since Brexit is that the much-feared congestion and delays as a result of border controls have not materialised. The average number of physical inspections on trailers coming off ferries from Britain is less than three per sailing,” Mr O’Reilly said.

‘Dislocation of trade’

“However efficient the border inspections by State agencies are, some Ro-Ro operators are now opting to use Northern Irish ports instead of Dublin. We believe that this dislocation of trade to ports in Northern Ireland will be a permanent feature,” he said.

As a sign of increased economic activity, new vehicle imports in the nine months from January to September increased by 19 per cent to 63,000, the company’s figures show.

The pandemic, however, continued to suppress passenger and tourism volumes, it said. Notwithstanding growth in the third quarter, passenger numbers on ferries – including HGV drivers – were down by 12.7 per cent to 568,000 after nine months while tourist vehicles were down 1.8 per cent to 167,000.