Transport Minister reassures people not to fear shortages following freight delays
Minister says British and French authorities are expected to agree new sanitary mechanisms so that road freight can continue
22 December 2020
Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan has urged the public not to fear food shortages, following the effective closure of the British “landbridge” route between Ireland and mainline Europe.
The Minister is expecting the UK and French governments to agree new sanitary mechanisms shortly to allow road freight to continue following France’s move to ban all travel from Britain for 48 hours on Sunday, including freight trucks.
At a press conference, Minister Ryan said large ferries are continuing to sail to Irish ports from Britain where the State sources much of its distribution for the supply chain.
However, up to 250 Irish lorry drivers have been left stranded in Britain on their way to continental Europe and supply chains for Irish firms transporting goods to and from mainland EU states have been disrupted.
“We will continue to work with both the UK and French governments to make sure our truckers get home safe and can deliver goods in a way that is safe for them and everyone else,” Minister Ryan said.
“Our first priority is maintaining the health of the drivers and making sure that we will get them home or get them out of any difficulties,” he added.
In telephone conversations with the French transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari, Minister Ryan said he stressed that Irish haulage businesses have been able to manage operations safely throughout the Covid-19 pandemic and they were “not a source of transmission.
“That has been the case of the last nine months and I am sure we can continue that – it is a well-protected area,” he said.
The Minister added that ferry companies such as Stena Line and Danish firm DFDS were increasing capacity on direct routes between Ireland and mainland Europe that would help reduce the dependence on the UK landbridge route for Irish importers and exporters.
He also said that French shipping company Brittany Ferries, which already operates services between Ireland and mainland Europe, was “offering a range of different services” following the transport crisis that arose following the detection of a more infectious coronavirus strain in Britain.
Independent retailers’ association RGDATA said it had been notified by the Department of Transportthat Rosslare – Cherbourg services are now planned to commence before Christmas and the new Rosslare – Dunkirk route will start earlier than planned. It also advised that operators such as Stena have indicated they will run services on December 24/25 if there is demand.
Meanwhile, the Freight Transport Association Ireland has raised concerns over a shortage of warehouse space as a result of pre-Brexit stockpiling.
“It is maxed out. It is very difficult at the minute to find available commercial warehousing space,” said Aidan Flynn, general manager of the association.
“It is good for the guys who have the warehouses because they have the space but it is a juggling game for others,” he added. “Goods can only come into the country if there is space for it to come in.”
Chilled storage space for food imports is particularly scarce due to businesses stockpiling animal-based food products to avoid health checks starting on British goods in the new year.