Alterations to shortsea container and ro-ro sailing schedules between the UK and continental Europe are taking place as shippers look to secure supply chain continuity as the Brexit transition period approaches its climax.
Speaking to a parliamentary select committee earlier this week, CEO of the UK Major Ports Group Tim Morris noted the arrival of multiple services.
“A number of new sailings have come on, with some elements of change as shippers try to work out what will be best for their supply chains,” he said.
Several operators have added stops to existing destinations, including Samskip adding a weekly call to Grangemouth expanding its Amsterdam-Hull lo-lo rotation, DSV launching an unaccompanied trailer service between Immingham and Rotterdam and CLdN has deployed a third daily sailing on its Zeebrugge-Purfleet route.
Most interesting from a Brexit standpoint, has been the launch of a service between Liverpool and Portugal and Spain, reflecting an increasing focus on the north of England. British Ports Association CEO Richard Ballantyne said it was “likely Brexit-related”, but suggested changes to ro-ro services would be less pronounced in the immediate future.
“We’re seeing some evidence of shifting ro-ro activity, but this is still relatively small, with more moves likely occurring later in the process,” Mr Ballantyne told The Loadstar.
“The interesting one is definitely the new service into Liverpool, which fits with a belief that there is going to be an increasing focus on the north of England.”
This northern focus has also led to Teesport welcoming a new twice-weekly container service operated by WEC Lines in conjunction with A2B from Bilbao, Spain.
Alongside its increased Zebrugge-Purfleet service, CLdN has also added additional rotations between Zebrugge and Dublin, expanding a service first launched in 2017.
When the service launched, the carrier had to fend off speculation its launch was a response to the Brexit vote and intended as an alternative for EU-Ireland trade. However, one source suggested that, while these speculations were inaccurate as the launch was planned prior to the referendum, the surrounding publicity had benefited the carrier.
“It certainly offers an alternative to trucking across the UK, although it arrives around eight hours later,” the source told The Loadstar.
“And if you miss it, you’re stranded, but it does avoid the uncertainty linked to the new customs procedures.”