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by Martin Roebuck

A trucking war is set to break out between the UK and Ireland over cabotage. Irish hauliers are angry at being shut out of the UK domestic market by the UK authorities’ over-zealous interpretation of EU cabotage rules that allow operators to carry out domestic haulage outside their own country, subject to certain conditions. Now, though, Irish truckers are putting

pressure on their government to stop UK hauliers working in Ireland. Irish Road Haulage Association

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president Eoin Gavin says: “More than 40% of trucks arriving in Dublin port are non- Irish and might work in southern Ireland all week, doing 20 or 30 movements. “We’re not able to do the same on the

other side - but our government is now threatening to introduce fines of up to €50,000 [for those UK offenders that break the cabotage rules].” The UK might find that it has more to

lose than Ireland, Eoin Gavin considers: “Our transport minister, Leo Varadkar, has


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British and Irish disagreement over truck cabotage

said the UK business model will be in a lot of trouble,” Gavin says. “It’s going to hurt them harder than it hurts us.” A number of Irish operators have

tried basing tractor units and drivers in mainland Britain, spending four or five days moving unaccompanied trailers that arrive on vessels from Ireland to their final destination and thus cutting shipping costs by shipping unaccompanied rather than accompanied trailers. They do not see this as a violation of cabotage rules, but the UK’s Vehicle and Operator Services Agency (VOSA) begs to differ. “VOSA deems Irish export loads to be

UK loads, and a number of our members have had their trailers impounded,” Gavin says. “But VOSA’s interpretation of the law involving drop trailers is completely wrong. We have held back for the last two years, but now we’re turning the screw.” Britain’s

hard-line approach has

backfired in any case, he claims. “VOSA was hoping to make a quick buck at Irish hauliers’ expense by enabling UK hauliers to pick up trailers in Wales and around

Liverpool, but they’re getting no business.” One prominent IRHA member, two

of whose trailers have been impounded for the last three years at a personal cost to his business of hundreds of thousands of euros, estimates that the stand-off has added €70 million to the cost of Irish exports. The association is still hoping the crisis can be resolved if the Irish government can agree a so-called “functional area” with the UK authorities, so that movements in both directions are treated equally. The European Commission is planning

to completely de-restrict the haulage market so that hauliers can operate freely in any member state. This has raised the separate concern at the IRHA that operators from countries such as Bulgaria and Romania, with unfettered access to Western Europe and a much lower cost base, will significantly undercut its members.

Ireland Report starts on p.24 North Sea Ro Ro service axed

Start-up freight ferry line North Sea RoRo abruptly ended its sailings between Killingholm and Gothenburg on the weekend of 9/10 March. The line had been operating three days a week in competiton with established carrier DFDS’s more frequent sailings from Immingham. In a statement, the company said its

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other activities would continue. Earlier, rival DFDS announced on 28

February that the emergence of North Sea Ro Ro as a competitor on its established Immingham-Sweden route, as well as the cost of starting up its new Dover-Calais route, had contributed to a 27% fall in earnings.


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