Irish Ferries owner calls for ‘urgent clarity’ on Irish-UK travel

Government figures have backed reopening Common Travel Area in coming months

The Irish Ferries vessel Ulysses leaving Dublin port. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

The Irish Ferries vessel Ulysses leaving Dublin port. Photograph: Bryan O’Brien

 

Irish Continental Group, owner of Irish Ferries, called on Wednesday for “urgent clarity” on dates for a lifting of travel restrictions between Ireland and Britain on foot of comments from Government figures about the reopening of the Common Travel Area.

Tánaiste Leo Varadkar said this week that he would be making the case to fully restore the free-travel zone between both countries in the coming months to boost pub and restaurant trade and the wider tourism industry. Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney also said he hoped that visitors could arrive from Britain during the summer.

At present, the Government requires passengers arriving from Britain to have a negative PCR (evaluation performed to detect coronavirus genetic material) Covid-19 test on arrival and to quarantine for 14 days. No such restrictions are in place in the UK.

“ICG welcomes the recent comments made by the Irish Government about the reintroduction of unrestricted travel in the Common Travel Area between Britain and Ireland,” the company said in a trading update on Wednesday. “ICG would urge the Irish Government to prioritise this against the background of low Covid-19 infection rates and increasing vaccination levels.”

The company added: “Urgent clarity is needed regarding dates so that ICG can ensure it is ready from an operational perspective.”

Revenue decrease

Revenue at ICG’s ferries division dropped 9.4 per cent to €37.1 million for the first four months of the year compared with the same period last year, which had also been hit by the Covid-19 crisis, it said. The figure was down 28.3 per cent from the first four months of 2019.

However, revenue in its container and terminal divisions rose by almost 11.9 per cent on the year, and 6 per cent on 2019, to €56.4 million.

Cars carried on its ferries dropped almost 63 per cent to 15,900 vehicles in the year to May 8th, while roll-on, roll-off freight declined by about 19 per cent. Container freight and terminal lifts both rose by more than 11 per cent.