The centre cannot hold, especially if there are too many trucks
Maybe Irish Ferries will have a reason to resurrect Rosslare service in the future
Rosslare Harbour, Co Wexford. Iarnród Eireann says its Rosslare Europort has up to 40 per cent spare capacity.
As WB Yeats himself said, the centre cannot hold. The decision of Irish Ferries owner Irish Continental Group to cancel Rosslare to France sailings for 2019 is puzzling. It is ending what will be one of the vital direct sea routes to continental Europe bypassing the UK landbridge as Brexit is about to kick in.
The company tried to soften the blow by saying its new ship, the WB Yeats, will operate between Dublin and Cherbourg but scrapping a service out of another Irish port that has excess capacity when the country’s busiest sea transit hub, Dublin Port, faces a potentially even busier 2019 is hard to fathom.
The port handles about a million cargo vehicles a year, 60 per cent of all vessel arrivals in Irish ports and almost half of all tonnes of goods handled in 2017. It is six times busier than Rosslare for lorry traffic and that’s not including the 660,000 containers handled by Dublin Port. That is a lot of pressure already on the centre.
Iarnród Eireann says that its Rosslare Europort has up to 40 per cent spare capacity. The Port of Waterford could take four times the number of containers it handles.
The difficulty with all this Brexit planning is a cart-before-the-horse issue. ICG has cited commercial reasons for its decision and ultimately it will be market rather than contingency planning for a worst-case Brexit that determines whether services will be diverted from a stressed-out Dublin Port.
Speed and cost make the UK landbridge the more commercially attractive route to Europe for Irish traders and shippers so moving to a direct sea route because of Brexit-related chaos would be a last resort.
Shipping companies only decide to send ships to other ports if there is a commercial demand or they cannot get in or out of other ports. Right now, neither is an issue, despite the looming spectre of a hard Brexit.
At least there is capacity and infrastructure being built elsewhere creates future options if Brexit is horrible. So maybe Rosslare can expect a second coming from Irish Ferries on that direct route to France after all.