Irish Sea shipping services have said that they were experiencing an increase in demand, partly because businesses were beginning to stockpile, as deadline after deadline is being allowed to slip past by the UK and EU negotiators ahead of the expiry of the UK-EU transition agreement on January 1st 2021.
Stena Line has chartered an extra ship to meet the capacity requirements. The company transports 65% of the freight moving between Northern Ireland and Great Britain.
Overall demand for freight services fell by up to 30% in April, but now the volume of stock Stena Line moved across the Irish Sea is running at 6% up on the same week in 2019.
Stena Line Ireland trade director Paul Grant said that “I think you can see people are anxious to get their stuff across and make sure they’ve got enough stock ahead of January 1st.”
The UK and EU have yet to agree a practical framework which could potentially minimize the number of new regulatory checks required. Grant said that it was “amazing” that uncertainty still remained over the level of checks which would be required with only seven weeks to go before the protocol comes into force. “We can’t afford for there to be hold-ups and bottlenecks so we’re working with the authorities and the port operators and so forth to make sure that we can make it as seamless as it can possibly be,” he said, adding that “the challenge for everybody is the fact that there’s so much uncertainty and so much infrastructure is yet to be built. We’ve done our part in terms of putting on the ferry capacity and I think the hauliers for their part have done their part in making sure that their supply lines work, but it’s actually making sure that all these checks and processes are in place for the hauliers”.
Most of the stockpiling involves goods coming into Northern Ireland from Great Britain, through Cairnryan and Liverpool, although there was also evidence of the same trend going the other way.