Freight volumes from the Port of Dublin to Liverpool and Holyhead fell by 19% in the first nine months of 2021 compared to the same period in 2020, whilst volumes on routes from Rosslare in south-east Ireland to Pembroke and Fishguard dropped by 30%, according to a report from the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO).

The IMDO report also reveals that Northern Irish hauliers are switching from the previously preferred Dublin-Holyhead route, post-Brexit, to Northern Ireland ports “to avoid the new customs requirements involved between Ireland and UK ports.”

As a result freight volumes at Northern Ireland (NI) ports have hit “unprecedented highs in 2021” with a 15% rise at the Port of Belfast Port, 18% at the Port of Larne and 20% at Warrenpoint Port, the report says.

The figures also show a significant rise in the volumes of goods shipped directly from Ireland to the EU on 32 new ferry routes to ports such as Le Havre, Cherbourg and Dunkirk in France and Zeebrugge in Belgium. These have leapt by 50% in the past six months as exporters seek to avoid travelling across the British landbridge, the report shows.

The rise in the number of ferry services going direct to France, from 12 before Brexit to 44 in 2021, along with fears that customs checks in Dover and Calais will create delays, has helped drive trade from Ireland direct to the continent, the report says.

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Traffic for the second and third quarters of this year show Irish Republic to EU traffic is already up by 52% compared with the entirety of 2019, the report added. Rosslare Europort is now taking 49% of EU traffic, with another 49% going through Dublin and 2% via Cork. Last Saturday (27 November) Rosslare Europort said it had its busiest day in its history.

The report states: “It is clear that the new trading arrangements between Ireland and the UK have had a significant and negative effect upon ro-ro freight traffic between the two countries. “Underpinning all of these trends are the new customs and trading arrangements between Ireland and the UK that came into force on 1 January 2021,” it said adding: "One-third of all ro-ro in the Republic of Ireland now operates on direct routes to ports in the European Union, up from a 16% share in 2019."