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Tuesday 7 February 2023 Dublin: 7°C
Alamy Stock Photo Cranes on dockside, Dunkirk port, France
# Dunkirk
French port examining new Irish routes after being 'pushed' towards Ireland due to Brexit
It is eyeing stronger links with Dublin Port and Rosslare Europort while creating new routes with southern ports.

THE PORT OF Dunkirk is looking to mount a significant expansion of trade routes with its Irish counterparts, as the French company sees Ireland as an “underestimated” market even post-Brexit.

In an interview with The Journal, its deputy chief executive said it was eyeing stronger links with Dublin Port and Rosslare Europort, while also creating new routes for the first time with ports in Cork and Waterford. 

Representatives from the port, based in northern France, were in Dublin this week with a range of companies in logistics, transport, pharmaceutical and agri-food to discuss trade links with Ireland. 

Britain’s departure from the EU had the effect of removing the land-bridge often used by hauliers traveling to and from Ireland, leaving eastern ports to step in and take on the extra traffic to the EU. 

This is best represented in Rosslare Europort in Co Wexford which says it has seen European freight passing through its doors increase by a staggering 370% compared to 2019.

In contrast, trade through the UK is now around 20% lower compared to 2019.

“The decision to have a direct service between Ireland and Dunkirk has been pushed by Brexit for sure,” Daniel Deschodt, deputy chief executive of the Port of Dunkirk told The Journal, adding that the port had been examining the viability of increased services for some time.

“I think that we all – all the actors – underestimated the market, the volume of cargo, leaving Ireland going to continental Europe and vice versa.”

Deschodt said the port’s “strategy” is to trial pilot routes for a number of Irish ports. This could involve transship or ‘lo-lo’ cargo – where containers are transported by crane – or ‘ro-ro’, which involves good being rolled on and rolled off vessels.

“We’d love transship cargo containers in Dunkirk to Dublin as as we do today, but we’d like to go to Cork, we’d like to go to Waterford, we’d like to cover Ireland either by ro-ro -  the aim for Rosslare – or by lo-lo which is the case for Dublin, with some space to grow for Dublin and for other ports.”

He said they are “working actively” at adding routes, with negotiations taking place alongside market studies to examine the viability of each new service.

Deschodt said they have been pitching Dunkirk as “one of the best places to to land” for companies to distribute to Northern Europe, due to a strong road network connecting with the port.

Glenn Carr, the director of commercial business units at Irish Rail and head of Rosslare Europort, told The Journal that there is “no denying the switch we’ve seen in the supply chain” which has allowed Ireland to become France’s “nearest EU neighbour” to its west.

“There are opportunities for further growth but that might be in other areas like lift on-lift off (lo-lo),” he said.

A Rosslare-Dunkirk route was launched almost two years ago, operated by leading Danish ferry company DFDS, but launched a trial for earlier this year for holidaymakers in Ireland and in northern Europe for passenger services.

Carr said he foresees this becoming more established from next summer with the addition of new vessels by operators catering specifically for tourists, to include restaurants and private cabins on board.

When contacted, Port of Waterford said it “would of course welcome building further links with Dunkirk” and pointed to its recovery from a slowdown during the pandemic via an increase in various traffic. This included bulk handling of goods jumping by 12 percent for the first six months of this year.

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