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Hauliers warn of more disruption at Irish ports over new requirement for negative test to enter France

The new rules come into effect from tonight.

File photo. Trucks at Dublin Port.
File photo. Trucks at Dublin Port.
Image: Sasko Lazarov/Rollingnews.ie

FRESH DISRUPTION IS being anticipated at Irish ports as a new requirement for negative Covid-19 tests for lorry drivers entering France comes into force.

The new rules come into effect from 11pm tonight Irish time – but government testing centres will not be operational until tomorrow morning.

The Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) has described calls from the Department of Transport to pre-book Covid-19 tests “absolutely infuriating”.

Spokesman Eugene Drennan told the PA News Agency: “I have an email here asking us to test on time. Ministers urge hauliers to pre-book and allow enough time for pre-departure. Now that is absolutely infuriating.

“The nature of our work is governed by strict timelines. We cannot get to the test centres until the timeline allows us. We are delayed at the import point, so that delays everything on the way.

“Then we try to get to the ferry. Pre-booking does nothing for you, because there will be a queue to the centres and it’s articulated trucks that are going there.

“So the guy that is 27th down the line, the fact that he has a test booked in the next 10 minutes, do you think everybody is going to stand aside and allow him to go ahead of them?”

Direct sailings to the continent, many of which enter through France, have been a lifeline for hauliers seeking to avoid the UK land bridge due to Brexit chaos.

The government has set up two testing centres where lorry drivers can be tested free of charge, at Dublin Airport and in Gorey, Co Wexford, near Rosslare harbour.

But road hauliers believe the two centres are not enough.

Drennan said: “There aren’t enough centres. There aren’t enough centres in truck-friendly places.

“What will happen if they can’t test quick enough and drivers can’t get out? It doesn’t get to market on time if it doesn’t get on the ferry.”

Drennan said he had been reassured that any lorries departing on Wednesday night prior to 11pm will be allowed into France without a negative Covid-19 test.

He added: “But I’m worried about it. I hope the French honour their word. I am a little bit worried about that. It’s absolutely going to be difficult.

“I hope they honour their word and we can get off of the ship. That’s the big fear.”

Drennan said the IRHA had first flagged concerns over testing requirements with the Department of Transport on December 14, and raised the issue repeatedly since.

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He added: “The first sailing is tonight and we have no centre.

“What do you tell the fisherman out in Donegal today – should you land your catch we’re not sure we can get on the boat with that. It’s worrying.”

The Department of Transport has said it is continuing to work with Wexford County Council on an additional site for traffic bound for Rosslare harbour.

It is intended that this site will open for testing over the coming days, the department said in a statement.

The statement said: “The testing facilities will be reviewed on a daily basis to ensure alignment between demand and provision of the service.

“Hours of operation at the sites will be based around ferry sailing times to France and will be subject to review based on demand.

“The testing facilities can be availed of by all commercial drivers who are departing on ferry sailings from Ireland to France including hauliers from Northern Ireland.”

Tests will only be provided to hauliers who are travelling to France or other countries where a negative Covid-19 test is required for entry.

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