NI haulage chief warns against ‘hysteria’ over P&O disruption

Logistics UK says goods still getting through but situation not sustainable in long-term

Goods are flowing freely into Northern Ireland despite suspended P&O sailings, according to a haulage industry chief who warned against “hysteria and panic buying”.

Seamus Leheny of Logistics UK said, however, that the disruption caused by the withdrawal of ferry services into Larne port following last week’s sacking of 800 P&O staff could not be sustained in the long-term.

On Tuesday, Stena Line introduced two extra sailings between Scotland and the North to ease pressures on supply chains for major supermarkets like Asda and Mark & Spencer.

The move was confirmed by UK transport secretary Grant Shapps after the mass P&O redundancies sparked widespread outrage and led to concerns about potential food shortages and empty shelves.


Panic buying

Mr Leheny insisted that goods, including perishable foods, were still getting through by using different ways of working.

“Goods are still flowing, there’s no shortages and we’re keen to avoid hysteria and panic buying. I’ve spoken to a couple of companies and they’ve been able to find ways – logistics is a problem-solving job,” he said.

“It’s not ideal because we’ve got most of the food produce for Northern Ireland coming into Belfast, into one point of entry. That’s creating problems for infrastructure here because it’s usually spread out with Larne.

“You couldn’t do this long-term. There’s just about enough capacity to keep goods moving here – but the problem is the available sailing times. Ideally, when you’re moving food into Northern Ireland, you want those night-time sailings out of Scotland and England so that it arrives in the early hours and then can go out to the supermarkets on the same day.

“A lot of businesses are having to re-organise their whole supply chain models and put in prioritisation of certain loads, such as perishable loads,” Mr Leheny said.


On Monday, P&O said its services would be “unable to run for the next few days” but Mr Leheny added he was “hopeful” sailings will be reinstated by the end of the week.

Meanwhile, Aodhan Connolly of the Northern Ireland Retail Consortium, a body representing almost 90 per cent of grocery retail trade in the North, said they had working round-the-clock to resolve supply problems since the P&O announcement last Thursday.

“There have been challenges but we’ve been working with government departments across these islands over the past five days. Things have got through,” he said.

“We’re doing that hard work so consumers don’t see it.”