Brittany Ferries has introduced three new freight services between the Republic of Ireland and France as a result of new post-Brexit laws.
The sailings will begin on Thursday, February 4, with a sailing between Rosslare and St Malo. Meanwhile, the first of two new sailings out of Cork to Roscoff will begin this Saturday.
Normally, most lorries travelling between Ireland and France would transit via the UK, using ferry services across the Irish Sea and English Channel.
But since new post-Brexit trade rules were introduced on January 1, increasing numbers of Irish and continental hauliers have been deterred from using the UK landbridge due to increased customs checks and paperwork.
From February, the company will offer hauliers 12 sailings a week linking Ireland with France and Spain – eight of those alone will deal with direct trips between Ireland and France.
Hugh Bruton, general manager for Brittany Ferries Ireland, said it was clear that Brexit had distorted trade flows between France and Ireland.
“There’s now clear and compelling demand both in Brittany and beyond to boost freight capacity direct from the region to Ireland,” Bruton said.
“And Irish traders too are seeking direct links to Western France.”
Port of Cork chief executive Conor Mowlds said it was a “hugely positive” development for Cork.
“Importers and exporters now have further transport options to get their freight direct to the EU and bypass the UK Land-Bridge,” he said, adding the new travel corridor will “strengthen the region by offering more flexibility to Irish customers, ensuring supply chains are maintained”.
Fine Gael spokesperson on European Union Affairs, deputy Neale Richmond, agreed.
Speaking at a virtual meeting of the German think tank, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation; deputy Richmond said: “One month has passed since the United Kingdom left the European Union and the single market, during which we have been reminded of the value of EU membership with queues at ports and airports, customs charges and trading issues abound as traders adapt to the loss of unfettered trading access between the UK and EU.
“The landbridge was previously the cheapest and quickest route from Ireland to the continent, used by upwards of 150,000 lorries per year but now delays and additional checks and requirements have led businesses to switch to direct routes from Ireland.
“Ferry providers have reacted quickly to this change in demand; there has been a 138% increase in freight sailings per week from Ireland to the continent compared to January 2020.
“Rosslare port, in particular, has seen a 446% increase in freight volumes on direct routes to Europe compared to January 2020, with 30 sailings per week to the continent, compared to 10 per week last year.”
Richmond said that thanks to “Brexit preparatory work”, Irish exports to the EU grew as much as 15% in 2019 and agri-food exports increased in value by 26% between 2016 and 2019.
“Clearly, direct shipping routes will be a huge benefit to Irish businesses; between the ease of access to the European market and the growing demand for our high-quality exports,” he said.
“Irish businesses are well placed to deepen our trading links within the European single market, taking full advantage of our EU membership.”