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Stena Line fast tracks direct ferry service from Ireland to France amid UK travel ban

Hauliers are being told not to leave Ireland unless they have a confirmed booking to travel directly to continental Europe.

Updated Dec 21st 2020, 1:40 PM

Stena Foreteller The Stena Foreteller will begin operating tomorrow.

STENA LINE IS adding a second ferry on its Rosslare to Cherbourg route ahead of schedule amid significant disruption to freight deliveries because of the UK travel ban.

The freight-only Stena Foreteller will commence crossings tomorrow, having originally been scheduled to begin sailing on 4 January.

The addition of the vessel will double the company’s freight capacity on the route and increase the number of weekly sailings from three to six. It will also offer an additional 3,000 lane metres of freight capacity per trip.

The ferry operator said it had witnessed a sharp increase in demand for freight deliveries and direct routes to mainland Europe as several countries imposed travel restrictions on the UK over fears of a new variant of Covid-19, which is prevalent in London and the south east of England.

“The developments of the last few days in terms of border closures have put enormous strains on the logistics industry,” Stena Line CEO Niclas Mårtensson said.

“Our Rosslare-Cherbourg service is the shortest direct crossing between Ireland and France, and I’m delighted to see that our operational team on the Irish Sea have been able to ‘fast-track’ the introduction of the Stena Foreteller, providing vital additional capacity in the run up to Christmas,” he added.

Earlier today the president of the Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) has said that no truck should leave Ireland unless they have a confirmed booking to travel directly to the continent. 

IRHA president Eugene Drennan told RTÉ’s Morning Ireland that there are currently between 200 and 250 Irish lorries stuck in England after France banned road freight from Britain due to the new coronavirus strain. 

The Port of Dover in Kent, where the majority of Irish hauliers are currently waiting, is closed to all accompanied traffic leaving the UK until further notice due to the border restrictions in France.

dover Police and port staff turn away vehicles from the Port of Dover in Kent. Source: PA

Drennan said he expected stranded hauliers to be allowed travel back to Ireland this evening and tomorrow and said “ferry companies have to do their utmost to get us home”.

Drennan appealed to Irish hauliers to not leave Ireland and said there are no ferries travelling directly to the continent today. 

“No haulier, no trucker, no factory should load a truck this morning if that truck hasn’t got a confirmed [ferry] booking to go to the continent,” said Drennan.

He also called for direct lines of travel for goods between Ireland and the continent.

France last night blocked all lorry freight from the UK as concerns mount about a new strain of the pandemic coronavirus.

French transport minister Jean-Baptiste Djebbari announced that the country was suspending all traffic – air, rail and sea – from the UK from midnight for at least 48 hours.

It comes as nations across Europe, including Ireland, moved to halt inbound flights from the UK in a bid to prevent the spread of a virus mutation sweeping through London and the south east of England.

Independent TD and former president of the Irish Road Haulage Association, Verona Murphy claimed that there isn’t enough capacity to get Irish trucks home from the continent.

Contradicting claims by the Minister for Foreign Affairs Simon Coveney, the Wexford politician said drivers may spend Christmas in the cabs of their trucks.

“He has no idea it would appear,” she said on RTÉ’s Today with Claire Byrne radio programme.

“There are 200 odd trucks that went to the UK to try to use the land bridge, there’s another 200-300 heading for Cherbourg, and some already there that are trying to get back into Ireland. As well as another 200 trying to leave Ireland to try to take product to the continent,” she said.

We have capacity currently between today and tomorrow for 90 trucks and trailers when we need 400. That statement that the Minister made that we have sufficient capacity is a misstatement, it is totally false.

Murphy called for the Dáil to be reconvened to deal with the matter.

Meanwhile, Simon McKeever, chief executive of the Irish exporters Association, said his members had begun moving freight away from the UK landbridge with France to direct shipping routes with the continent. 

McKeever said it “is a bit early” to say what the impact on his members will be today. “What we do know is that freight is open between Britain and Ireland but we have witnessed huge queues going into Holyhead,” he said. 

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McKeever said the impact of the current restrictions – which may last beyond 48 hours – could have a detrimental impact in two to three weeks time. 

McKeever also said the current situation is a “real test of Brexit”. 

“What would have happened in the event of Brexit is that the outbound freight out of the UK would have been the one that faced all the delays so this is an exact replica of what we would have seen…on roll-on, roll-off freight.”

The Irish Farmers Association (IFA) also said it is very about the impact of border closures on the food supply chain.

“This level of disruption could be very damaging for the movement of stock off farms and the efficient functioning of the supply chain,” IFA President Tim Cullinan said.

With reporting by Céimin Burke

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