Port chiefs poised for post-Brexit disruption to exports

Haulage industry group warns of potential shortages due to checks on food imports

It could be up to six months before Brexit’s impact is understood. Photograph: John Fleming

It could be up to six months before Brexit’s impact is understood. Photograph: John Fleming


Businesses face further trading difficulties with Britain when the UK government phases in post-Brexit import controls from the start of April, Irish port chiefs have told a Seanad committee.

Seven weeks since the introduction of border controls on imports from Britain, the Seanad Brexit committee heard how importers and hauliers were struggling to deal with complex red tape associated with post-Brexit border checks on goods coming from Britain into the Republic.

The Irish Road Haulage Association warned of potential food shortages on fresh fruit and vegetables and meats as a result of sanitary and health checks on plant- and animal-based foods.

Haulage industry representatives complained about the cumbersome paperwork required by State agencies, the Revenue, Department of Agriculture and the Health Service Executive, at Dublin Port since Brexit.

“You could spend hours moving within the port just to do different pieces of paperwork,” said David McArdle, secretary of the IRHA.

John Nolan, secretary of the association, said that food shortages in supermarkets could arise from delays of one or two days as a result of “red-routed” checks on fresh fruit and vegetables and animal-based food products coming into the State from Britain through Dublin and Rosslare ports.

Customs agents

Glenn Carr, general manager of Rosslare Europort, said that Britain has been shown to be “quite badly prepared” for Brexit. He anticipated further difficulties when the UK authorities start their own border controls when they are phased in from April 1st and July 1st.

“I don’t think we should underestimate what’s coming in July because we are going to go through all of this in July on the UK side,” he said.

He expects difficulties due to the shortage of customs agents to deal with British trade.

Mr Carr referred to one recent shipment that had 1,800 commodity codes to be checked on goods in just one lorry trailer; it took experienced customs agents 10 hours to clear.

He said that it was “just not physically possible” to complete next-day deliveries on orders from the Republic to Britain any more because of the new post-Brexit border controls on imports.

Commercial ‘unpreparedness’

“There are some fundamental things there that is just a new world and people are going to have to get used to it,” he said.

Eamonn O’Reilly, chief executive of Dublin Port Company, said that upcoming UK checks could affect exports and that it could be up to six months before Brexit’s impact is understood.

“There are definite worries there for the future that we can’t meaningfully predict the impact of at this stage,” he said.

Mr O’Reilly said there was “a significant amount of unpreparedness” among businesses shipping their cargoes into Ireland.

He referred to one internationally known car manufacturer which recently expected a complex load of goods to be shipped with just three hours’ notice for a fee of just €25.

This was an an example of a “very sophisticated” large business that was “entirely unprepared for the realities of non-tariff barriers” associated with Brexit, he said.

The manager of the State’s busiest port said he was “very surprised” that trade volumes with Britain fell by 45 per cent and that overall volumes through the port in January fell by 24 per cent – “an enormous fall” – following a 22 per cent increase in December with pre-Brexit stockpiling.