Supplies of goods and food to and from the State could be affected by January 1st Brexit changes because existing and new ferry services to the Continent will not be able to carry enough lorries, the Irish Road Haulage Association has warned.
Some 150,000 Irish lorries annually take 13½ hours to cross the United Kingdom, heading for the Continent, but these journeys are set to take significantly longer from the new year.
Direct continental container-only ferry services take up to 38 hours and do not carry lorries or trucks; while hauliers fear that there will not be enough capacity to absorb traffic from hauliers trying to bypass the UK.
President of the Irish Road Haulage Association Eugene Drennan insists that not enough spaces will exist, contrary to declarations by the Government’s Irish Maritime Development Organisation Office.
Hauliers argue the office is counting container-only ferry services to make its capacity pledge stack up, but this does not replace faster roll-on, roll-off services.
His predecessor as head of the hauliers’ association, Independent TD Verona Murphy, said eight trucks were left behind at Rosslare Europort last Saturday.
The ship, which should have been in harbour, “is anchored off Holyhead because the crew have Covid and it is quarantined for two weeks”, Ms Murphy told Taoiseach Micheál Martin.
Insisting that capacity would be available, the Taoiseach said shipping firms had given assurances “that if there is a demand for increased shipping capacity on direct routes, they will respond”.
“They have indicated a number of options that can be quickly implemented by them if required, including using existing spare capacity, increasing sailings, redeploying ships and chartering vessels,” he said.
Meanwhile, the European Commission said it was taking “very seriously” warnings from major UK supermarkets about risks to Northern Ireland’s food supplies after January 1st, given the impasse between London and Brussels.
A commission spokesman said it was “exploring all options available under EU law”, but he nevertheless made clear that all goods entering the North from the rest of the UK would “need to meet EU rules on food safety”.