Stena Line says its remains “committed” to Holyhead and Fishguard ports despite a slump in trade after Brexit.
The UK’s exit from the EU has seen trade diverted away from both the ports – with hauliers instead choosing direct Ireland – mainland EU routes or services via Northern Ireland.
Figures from the Irish Maritime Development Office shows trade from Dublin to Holyhead and Liverpool was down 19% this year and 30% on the two routes from Rosslare in south-east Ireland to the Welsh ports of Pembroke and Fishguard.
Meanwhile trade between Northern Ireland and GB was up 17% and direct freight trade between Ireland and the rest of EU up 50%.
Stena Line told Business Live that trade is down 30% at its Welsh ports and that it was apparent that “Brexit is not just a short-term issue”.
The firm is now preparing for checks to be introduced at the UK side but said it was committed to the ports in Wales.
Ian Davies, Head of UK Ports, Stena Line, said: “2021 has undoubtedly been a very difficult year for freight and tourism through our Welsh ports, as we expected it would be.
“Travel volumes continue to improve but freight has not been helped recently by the bad weather, which has further lowered freight levels.
“Freight volumes have recovered to a degree from very low volumes in January but the Wales – Ireland market is approx. 30 % down. Stena own both Holyhead and Fishguard ports and we are committed to them for the long term.
“It is apparent that Brexit is not just a short-term issue that will be solved quickly. Changes will be gradual. We saw this in 2007-2008 economic downturn, it can take years to recover.”
He added: “What we are seeing on the Irish Sea is high levels of freight distortion with some freight that would’ve previously travelled through Wales, now diverting via Northern Ireland or direct to France.
“We are dealing with the authorities in a bid to improve requirements for direct movements to Britain and land-bridge transit procedures in a bid to assist the rebalancing freight on the Irish Sea.”
Mr Davies said the next priority was helping customers deal with the new checks from January 1 on the UK side of the border with the EU as these have so far been delayed by UK Government.
He added: “Our priority until the end of the year is to remind hauliers and exporters of the next stages of changes of customs requirements that are required from 1 st January, 2021. It is important that they are ready.
“Customs references for imports to Britain will now be required, called GMR numbers.
“So it is vitally important that importers and hauliers have all the correct documentation before they arrive for our ferries.
“If they do not have all the correct paperwork in place beforehand they should not attempt to check-in, because they will not be permitted access and will be turned away.
“We cannot stress the importance of this strongly enough.”
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