DUBLIN- As the EU adjusts to its new relationship with the U.K. after Brexit, fewer freight trucks are making the trek across the Irish Sea. For decades, the route through Europe has been a reliable and critical artery for bringing goods from Ireland to mainland Britain. With the end of the Brexit transition period on Dec. 31 trucks from the Republic of Ireland – going through the United Kingdom and entering the mainland via ports like Calais now face a great deal of paperwork and red tape. In the first week of January, operators like Stena Line, Brittany Ferries and Spain have added extra routes from Ireland to French ports like Dunkirk, Cherbourg and Saint-Malo as well as Bilbao in Ireland. Three months after Brexit, port authorities, haulers and ferry operators are coming to grips with this new normal in Irish-European trade. DFDS, the Danish shipping company, added a route between Dunkirk Europort in the southeast of Ireland to Rosslare. In general, we 're overcrowded on most of the days, told Aidan Coffey, the Route Director at DFDS, CNBC. There are three ships at the moment rotating the schedules. This is going to start a third ship very shortly up the Atlantic Shelf. The journey takes approximately 24 hours and is longer than it would typically take to drive through the Land Bridge. Laurence O'Toole is the managing director of the logistics company O'Toole Transport that carries various mixed loads on its trucks, including seafood. Pre-Brexit, the majority of its journeys went through Europe to reach the U.K., but now it is putting more trucks on these new routes. I 'd say now that it's completely flipped on its head, O'Toole said.
For Rosslare Europort, the growing dynamic of freight transport has increased activity at its berths. The port, located over 100 miles south of Dublin, has proven to be a popular location for ferries to connect to ports in France and Spain. Glenn Carr, the general manager of Rosslare Europort told CNBC that demand at the port has decreased but U.K. freight is about 43%. It's still very worrying, that level of drop on the U.K. But overall freight through Rosslare Europort, combined U.K. and Europe, is up 51% for the first two months of the year. This type of growth has never been seen in Rosslare, said Carr. The demand seems to be likely increasing and we are certainly in discussions with other operators and other services. He said the ship operators had to move fast in getting routes ready.
Usually a route is numbered and gradually increases in demand over an 18-month period before it reaches capacity, but most of the journeys are now at full capacity. It's new and certainly in talking to the shipping lines they would never have seen an uptake of a new service like that ever before, said Carr. However, it remains only three months into this new environment while coronavirus shocks to trade continue to be felt and shippers continue to adjust. It remains to be seen also how much land bridge traffic will eventually return in the coming months. But the conversations are about further expansion, Carr said, it's not about any contraction. Rosslare Europort has commenced a 35 million euro investment plan for expanding facilities at the port to meet this demand. The works will run over the next four years; operators expect that the Dock will reach throughput capacity between 2030 and 2040 in Dublin Port. It has opened a consultation on what its future will look like after 2040 as the construction of any additional facilities on the east coast of Ireland would take up to 20 years to design, build and operate.