‘Lack of understanding’ on ferry capacity ‘will lead to trade crisis’ – Murphy

Grave concerns have been expressed by independent TD Verona Murphy over what she considers to be “incorrect numbers” that the government is continually communicating in relation to ferry capacity post-Brexit.

In explaining the issue, deputy Murphy said: “Simon Coveney and many others have said recently that we have 22 weekly direct ferry sailings to mainland Europe.

“Most of the sailings they are referring to are container ships which don’t take trucks or drivers.

We need the capacity to accommodate 417 trucks per day from Ireland to Europe, post-Brexit. The land-bridge traffic does not travel on container ships. So, the government’s lack of understanding is very concerning.

The Wexford TD says that the same “lack of understanding” was expressed a couple of weeks ago when she questioned the Tánaiste, Leo Varadkar, in the Dáil and previous to that when she questioned Minister of State Robert Troy on the same topic.

Deputy Murphy continued, stating: “An Tánaiste believes that we have direct Ro-Ro [roll-on roll-off] routes to Belgium, the Netherlands and even Portugal that will take the land-bridge traffic post Brexit, as he announced on the floor of the Dáil in a recent exchange with myself.

“The sailings he referred to are in fact container ships, not Ro-Ro ferries and this is where the complete lack of understanding is.

The only Ro-Ro routes we have are sailings to Cherbourg three days a week and sailings to Bilbao twice a week.

“There are only three routes and eight sailings currently that cater for roll on roll off traffic, not the 22 that the Tánaiste and Minister Troy have twice misrepresented in the Dail.”

The independent TD and former president of the Irish Road Haulage Association went on to explain: “Roll on roll off, or ‘Ro-Ro’ as it is called, involves trucks, trailers and drivers using a ferry, whereas ‘Lo-Lo’ is traffic where a container is lifted on and off a container ship by crane.

“Lo-Lo is totally irrelevant as a measure of capacity when assessing our preparedness for Brexit as it is not an alternative to using the UK land-bridge.

This is a sector which is worth €18 billion to the Irish economy. It is therefore imperative that the departments and ministers dealing with this have their facts right and develop a detailed knowledge of the issues facing the sector.

Deputy Murphy concluded with a stark warning for the government:

“Ministers and officials need to develop a greater understanding of the different types of sea transport we have.

“When discussing Brexit, the government misrepresents the Ro-Ro capacity available by including Lo-Lo traffic in their figures.

It is inevitable, unless provision is immediately made for additional ferry services for Ro-Ro traffic within the next couple of weeks, that supply chains will collapse.

“With full Brexit less than 70 days away, the government, through a complete lack of understanding and engagement with the sector and subsequent failure to put in place daily direct ferry services to mainland Europe, is allowing this to evolve into another avoidable crisis our country does not need,” the TD concluded.