import and export. Warrenpoint is

Issue 2 2019 - FBJ

>> 6 bet w een evenly

tonnage is split fairly

right on

Northern Ireland’s border with the South so Brexit is a concern. Overall, about half its traffic moves to or from the south and for some – like timber – it can be nearer 70%. Guinness says: “We would of course want to continue frictionless trade given our location. The worst scenario for us would of course be a No Deal which would be highly disruptive for the economy.” Newry council has

meanwhile earmarked some land that could be used as temporary storage space should there be problems after Brexit and the port is also in discussions with the Police Service of Northern Ireland regarding traffic management and the possibility of using the hard shoulder of the dual carriage for truck parking,

should it become necessary – though these plans are not yet all confirmed. The port has also ordered modular offices to house customs and other personnel should

they be

needed. More positively, a big win for

Warrenpoint is the decision to go ahead with the Newry southern relief road. While the port has an uncongested dual carriageway almost from the gate towards Newry, and the main Belfast to Dublin road has also been upgraded to motorway or dual carriageway standard, this fast route is interrupted by roundabouts and traffic lights on the edge of Newry itself. Guinness says: “People talk about problems with ‘last mile’ distribution, but in fact my last mile’s alright – my problems are further up the road.” The road is going ahead

despite the stasis in the Stormont Northern Ireland government because it forms


and increasing bulks. There are some long-term plans for land


but these will only be pursued if they can be made environmentally acceptable. At the same time, the port’s

management and financial team will relocated from inside the operational area back into Warrenpoint itself

example of a port moving some of its activity back into a town centre as Guinness intends to improve the interface between the port and the town, investing in an unoccupied port-owned Town Dock office building. Guinness is also determined

part of the Belfast City Deal (which, despite its name has been expanded to several other parts of Northern Ireland) which lies outside the remit of the still-suspended Northern Ireland Assembly. Not only will it make life much pleasanter for Newry

residents but it will remove what would have been “a glass ceiling” on Warrenpoint’s growth. The Newry bypass also matches the recently opened direct road link between the port of Heysham and the M6. The new road will also help unlock the port of

freight is food, and at the moment it all moves under just-in-time regimes.

It’s very

The Irish freight industry is increasing its efforts to train staff ahead of a possible No Deal for the UK at the end of March, says Aiden Flynn, general manager at the Freight Transport Association of Ireland (FTAI) but it hasn’t been easy. “Preparations are intensifying,” he said (in late February) “but there isn’t necessarily the funding available. Uptake of training has been relatively slow because companies haven’t got

the numbers of staff to allow them to be released for training en masse.” He

hopes Revenue that & the Irish Customs

Department will take a pragmatic approach and not try to stop every vehicle, although Ireland is of course bound by EU rules. But without some flexibility, chaos would ensue. While the UK government

has suggested that some sort of IT ‘fix’ could solve the problems

of freight crossing the Irish land border, Flynn holds out little hope that technology can be much of a solution, at least in the short term. “There is nothing on the back of a truck at the moment that could synchronise with Customs and government agencies, and even if there was, how long would it take to get anything up and running?” However, if the politicians

were to take a sensible approach, allowing a transition period of perhaps four years, that would give sufficient time in which to get a workable IT solution in place. It’s a pity, says Flynn, that the media has talked about the Irish ‘backstop’ rather than describing it as what


really is - a transition period. Food and agri products

are one of the big headaches and while safety is of course sacrosanct, Flynn questions whether the government departments have the resources to check at the intensity that would officially be required. He certainly hasn’t seen any evidence of the Irish government recruiting extra people. Around 60% of UK/Irish

questionable whether that could happen in future, but on the other hand retailers have engineered their supply chains so that there is virtually no storage space in the system. Again, it’s an area where a little flexibility and common sense

Warrenpoint’s masterplan for future growth. This, explains Guinness, aims to make the best of the port’s existing footprint by demolishing old buildings, upgrading facilities and realigning internal roads. It will create much-needed space for the growing ro ro operations

confirmation on how many veterinary inspectors will be trained and available to immediately


work at 11pm on 29 March, in the event of a No Deal exit. In addition, business also waiting on the publication of traffic management plans to deal with the expected increase in traffic surrounding Ireland’s ports –

Ports like Holyhead might need transit offices.

that the port play a full part in the life of the town by funding community schemes as well as improving

the general

environment. Meanwhile, the port


investing heavily in plant and equipment including £3 million in new and refurbished cranes and is replacing its entire forklift fleet.

Thought also needs to be

given to how the UK landbridge between Ireland and the remaining EU countries would work. While it is encouraging that the UK will remain in the EU Common Transit system, it would require HMRC to set up transit offices in strategic locations like Liverpool, Holyhead or Dover – otherwise the

customs authorities in

France or Belgium would have no way of knowing whether goods had originated from the UK or Ireland. Somewhat


encouraging is the development of direct shipping services between Ireland and the Continent. Only that week, CLdN had started a new thee days a week Dublin/Rotterdam route for containers and ro ro. “We’re not as reliant on the UK as we were,” says Flynn. But the UK landbridge is still

could reap huge rewards. “We’d urge all the regulatory bodies to take a pragmatic approach. Otherwise there could be chaos in the ports.” Rather than the regulatory

bodies trying to pass off responsibility onto industry, a partnership approach will be essential to keep things moving, and to create enough space and time for processes and systems to be put in place. Flynn adds: “FTA and its members are still waiting for

both key issues which FTAI has been seeking clarification on for two years.” He said that Dublin Port was

of particular concern as there is currently no capacity for traffic to build in or out of the Dublin Tunnel in the event of congestion in the ports. The Road Safety Authority must decide what action to take when drivers were forced to exceed their working time and what welfare facilities were being made available for them.

important, as is the UK market. Many Irish traders send out groupage truckloads of UK- and Continent-destined traffic, offloading the UK element there and reloading with UK- produced goods destined for the EU. That type of operation could become very difficult if not impossible to manage after Brexit – the Community transit System is not designed for it. “That is the reality of the UK becoming a third country,” states Flynn.

– a rare

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