The Port of Cork could run one or two ferry services to the UK should a no-deal Brexit lead to congestion at Dublin Port, according to the executive who runs the southern port.
Brendan Keating, Port of Cork chief executive, said the port could handle a ferry service or two to the UK – most likely to Fishguard, Swansea or Bristol for eight to 12 weeks after a no-deal Brexit – but said the port would need more than €500,000 to make the necessary preparations, depending on traffic volumes.
“All we can do is plan for the worst scenario and, in that context, if a hard Brexit comes to pass we can step up to the plate and facilitate an additional service or two,” Mr Keating said.
Department of Transport briefing papers identify Rosslare Europort and the Port of Cork at Ringaskiddy to be used potentially to take roll-on, roll-off (RoRo) lorry traffic from Dublin Port, which handles more than 85 per cent of the country’s road freight, should checks in a no-deal scenario lead to a backlog.
The papers say that Rosslare could primarily provide the additional capacity on any spillover traffic from Dublin Port but the possibility of using a port as far south as Cork for RoRo traffic after a crash-out Brexit highlights the extent of the department’s contingency planning and concerns about the impact on trade.
Mr Keating said the “critical consideration” was whether a shipping line would take a decision to run a service from the port.
Cork could not be as competitive as the east coast ports of Dublin, Rosslare and Belfast for ferry services to Britain, he said, but department officials had visited the port and discussed the potential for Ringaskiddy to be used for a UK service for RoRo traffic in a worst-case scenario.
The port is building an €80 million container terminal on 13.5 hectares along with ship-to-shore gantry cranes and container handling equipment in a project that is due to become operational in March 2020.
Mr Keating sees opportunities for the port to open direct services to continental Europe, either western France or northern Spain following from the decision by Brittany Ferries to run a twice-weekly service to Santander in northern Spain in addition to the company's Cork-Roscoff summer service.
“A lot depends on Brexit. Everyone is watching, waiting, wondering what is going to happen. If there is a hard Brexit, there could be an opportunity but it is very difficult to say right now,” he said.