Brexit causes sharp fall in Irish lorry freight on Irish Sea ferries

Truck freight volumes fall by a third on Dublin-Holyhead route in nine months

In a further sign of Brexit affecting trade, lorry freight volumes on ferries between Holyhead and Dublin – the busiest Irish Sea route – fell by a third in the first nine months of year.

New industry figures to be published shortly will show a sharp reduction in the number of lorries moving between Ireland and Britain and across the "landbridge" to mainland Europe as companies prefer the certainty of direct routes without border checks and controls.

The Irish Maritime Development Office is finalising figures on port traffic for the third quarter.

Dublin and Rosslare have recorded sharp declines in lorry freight traffic between Ireland and Britain but a surge in freight volumes on direct routes as traders avoid post-Brexit Britain.


There has been an increase in lorry freight moving on ferries between Northern Ireland and Britain as hauliers move away from ports in the Republic to avoid checks on goods.

Neither Dublin Port or Rosslare Europort have experienced the disruption to shipping witnessed in the UK where shipping companies have had to divert supersized cargo vessels away from Britain because of bottlenecks in the global supply chain and a shortage of lorry drivers.

The world's largest shipping company Maersk was forced to send ships bound for the English port of Felixstowe, the UK's largest commercial port, to Rotterdam and Antwerp after the port suffered a chronic build-up of containers and 20,000 container ships were waiting days to dock.

The Port of Felixstowe blamed the busy pre-Christmas period of supply chain movements and the shortage of lorry drivers. Maersk has had to reroute ships away from the English port to other European ports where smaller vessels will be used to transport UK deliveries to smaller ports.

Irish shipping traffic

Eamonn O’Reilly, chief executive of Dublin Port Company, said Irish shipping traffic had not been affected, with between 20 and 22 ships continuing to arrive into Dublin every day.

“We don’t see anything like the shipping and terminal congestion evident in British ports like Felixstowe or on the west coast of the US here in Dublin Port because we are at the end of the supply chain with smaller feeder ships coming from major ports such as Rotterdam,” he said.

“It all gets filtered down to bite-size pieces and the issue doesn’t arise for us.”

Glenn Carr, manager of Rosslare Europort, said the port had experienced a 30 per cent decline in lorry freight traffic on ferry services with Britain but a 370 per cent increase on direct routes.

“We are certainly not turning ships away; in fact, we have an opportunity to take in one or two more,” he said.

Freight movements on direct routes to mainland Europe have led to Rosslare surpassing the freight volumes recorded through the southeastern port for the whole of 2019, he said.

As part of plans to free up space at the port, Dublin Port Company said last week that it would open Dublin Inland Port, a 44-hectare site 14km from the port for the storage of empty containers.

The first operator at the €48 million facility, located next to Dublin Airport just off the M50, will be Dublin Ferryport Terminals, owned by Irish Continental Group and one of the port’s three container terminals.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times