The Post-Brexit evolution of trailer shipping services out of Ireland continues.

It would be difficult to have foreseen during the months leading up to Brexit Day the fallout in the Ro-Ro shipping marketplace. There was an assumption that the EU/UK Trade Agreement would enable business to continue much as usual for Irish exporters and importers, and that cargo volumes being shipped on the Ireland/Britain sea routes would remain constant. Volumes being shipped through Britain using the “Landbridge” to the continent would also run as usual.

This, of course, is not what happened. Irish Traders moved focus from Britain as a marketplace and a source of materials to Continental Europe and sought to ship whatever they could of this and existing continental traffic by direct shipping routes avoiding Britain. Trailer volumes out of Dublin and Rosslare to Britain dropped sharply though those on routes from Larne, Belfast and Warrenpoint multiplied as traders in Northern Ireland sought to make best use of the facilitation provided by the Northern Ireland protocol.

One recent indication of the drop-off in traffic on the Dublin to Holyhead and Liverpool Central corridor is the weekend withdrawal by each of P&O and Seatruck of a vessel from their Liverpool services, and Irish Ferries sailing the Ro-pax Epsilon to Cherbourg at the weekend, skipping four Dublin/Holyhead/Dublin rotations.

The well established CLdN Con-Ro (Container, Ro-Ro) operation out of Dublin to Zeebrugge and Rotterdam along with a weekly Dublin/Santander service has continued to grow both in numbers of services and in the vessel size. CLdN has also opened a twice weekly Cork/Zeebrugge service while Grimaldi Line has opened a twice weekly Cork/Antwerp service.

The most dramatic service changes have taken place at Rosslare Europort. Prior to Brexit Stena Line operated fourteen services each week to Fishguard and three to Cherbourg, Irish Ferries operated to Pembroke fourteen times weekly, and Brittany Ferries had just switched their twice weekly Spanish service from Cork to Rosslare.

On July 23rd. this year, Finnlines will open a twice weekly Rosslare/Zeebrugge service using Finnpulp, a Ro-Ro freight vessel with capacity for 225 trailers. Like the CLdN services out of Dublin the Finnlines will enable trailers to be carried onward on the Line’s other services from their Benelux hub to a range of Scandinavian and Iberian destinations.

The new Finnlines service will also compete with the six times weekly Rosslare/Dunkirk service which was introduced on “Brexit Day” and with the, now, six times weekly Rosslare/Cherbourg Stena Line service and the once weekly services opened by Brittany Ferries to Cherbourg and to Le Havre. The long-standing Neptune Line service which focusses on Trade Cars now sails weekly from Rosslare to Santander also taking some trailer cargo.

Looking ahead, Brittany Ferries have announced their deployment of a significant larger vessel on their Rosslare/Bilbao and Rosslare/Cherbourg routes which will not only add 40% additional freight capacity on those services but also greatly improved passenger capacity and facilities. French newspapers have also been carrying rumours that DFDS will shortly announce a vessel change that will enable them to open the Rosslare/Dunkirk service to passenger traffic.

Written by Howard Knott