More Irish-British trade diverted via Northern Ireland says Dublin port chief

An increasing number of firms since the final departure of the UK from the EU at the beginning of the year have been moving goods between Ireland and GB via Northern Ireland, according to Dublin Port chief Eamonn O’Reilly.

He described the development as worrying, and feared that it could be a structural change.

For many years the British mainland had been used as a landbridge for Irish exports and imports to and from continental Europe. However, the introduction of checks and other increased levels of bureaucracy since the UK has left the EU has seen a big increase in shipping routes from Ireland to mainland Europe, by-passing Wales and England.

However the O’Reilly said that some cargo was also being diverted through Northern Ireland. Dublin has reported a Q1 29% year-on-year drop in trade volumes between Ireland and GB.

“The dislocation of a lot of volume to ports in Northern Ireland is worrying,” Eamonn O’Reilly said, adding that “back in 1990, before the Single European Market was established, more than a third of Ro-Ro trade chose services to and from Northern Irish ports rather than use services in and out of Dublin Port.”

O’Reilly said port operators would not get a proper sense until later in the year as to what extent the decline is due to the new border regimes and whether the dislocation would be permanent or temporary.

RoRo volumes between Ireland and France, Belgium and the Netherlands rose by 26% year on year in Q1, while lift-on/lift-off services between Dublin Port and mainland European ports were 18% higher, Dublin Port said on Monday April 19th.

O’Reilly said Dublin Port was optimistic that the landbridge would re-establish itself in the months ahead, as processes became smoother and the previous time advantage reasserted itself.