In a statement from the Irish government, it was reported that goods shipments in Ireland have halved in number with the UK and doubled with France in the first month of Brexit.
This shift in numbers highlights just one of the new issues that have arose from the new trade deal particularly with Britain’s so-called ‘land bridge.’ Hauliers now carrying EU shipments on British motorways are now facing lengthy delays due to the new bureaucracy imposed at the borders which is making the option of transporting via sea freight much more desirable despite the lengthy wait for the shipment to arrive.
Bureaucracy at the Border
According to the Irish Prime Minister, Micheál Martin, just 17,500 trucks (an average of 45 per ferry) arrived into Irish ports in January from Britain which is half of the figure that arrived in the previous year and just a fraction of the capacity of the Irish sea ferries which have the ability to carry at least 200 heavy goods vehicles.
Despite the exceptionally low flow of goods from Britain, hauliers were required to provide 760,000 import declarations, which averaged at around 43 per truck, to successfully gain entry into Ireland. The Prime Minister confirmed that these low volumes were as a result of, “Brexit stockpiling, COVID-19 restrictions, newly introduced checks and controls and the emergence of new direct services with additional capacity on European routes.”
Sea routes that bypass Britain have doubled in the last few weeks, particular the Ireland to France route which has seen triple the number of options available to hauliers. Drivers have been purchasing standby tickets in the hope they may find a last-minute space on these commonly full sailings.
COVID Testing Chaos
France is now requiring that drivers arriving on Irish ferries as well as from England should have a negative COVID test taken within the last 72 hours. In response to this, Ireland last week set up test centres enabling drivers to receive free antigen testing before boarding ferries. The two test centres were set up in Dublin and Rosslare and are already able to test up to 1500 drivers weekly.
Customs Clearance Catastrophe
As many as one in five lorries arriving into Ireland from Britain do not possess the required paperwork for customs, animal health, food safety or security. This is causing hours and even days of delays to vehicles before they are permitted to proceed into the country.
“The challenge the new checks due to Brexit create for traders is fully acknowledged,” the office said.
The same issue is arising for Irish drivers trying to access Europe via Britain. A protest was held at Dublin Port last week appealing to European Commission President, Ursula Von Leyen to appoint an EU trade trouble shooter at the major trade hub.
At present, Britain’s new customs regulations have been relaxed to ease companies into the processes. With issues already causing hassle, it is set to get worse when the new regulations come into full force in July.
“Exporters are being urged to prepare for these changes now,” said the Prime Minister’s office, noting that some Irish firms faced, “severe difficulty adapting to the new systems of control.”
The office recognised that companies were often let down by their clients or even customs agents but emphasised that, “It is absolutely necessary that everyone in the supply chain knows and understands their roles and responsibilities….. It is the responsibility of the importer or exporter or their agent to ensure the required information and channels of support are available to hauliers when goods are stopped.”
To mitigate delays, firms transporting goods from Ireland to Europe are now being advised to use direct sea links and cut out transportation through UK suppliers and distribution centres where possible. As a result of this, the number of crossings for direct EU routes had more than doubled to 62 weekly sailings including 36 with France.
These routes have gained in popularity for the sheer number of heavy goods vehicles it can carry (up to 10,000) with the added option of drivers being able to drop their shipments off on the ferry and have them picked up by another driver in Europe avoiding the need to complete the sea voyage or source a coronavirus test.