Ports in the Republic are handling more goods from the EU and fewer from the UK than they were last year, a fact that hauliers say is due to Irish-bound freight being diverted through Belfast.
igures from the Central Statistics Office (CSO) show the total tonnage of UK goods handled at Ireland’s main ports was down 10pc in the first quarter of this year, compared with 2020, while goods from the EU, were up 8.6pc.
The data also show an almost 40pc increase in gross tonnage handled by Rosslare Port in the first quarter of 2021 compared with the same period in 2020.
There has been a much smaller but steady decline in gross tonnage handled by Dublin Port since 2019.
Road hauliers say the reason is not just because of the massive growth in direct shipping routes to continental Europe, but a permanent diversion of British traffic to Northern Irish ports because of too much red tape in Dublin.
“The port that’s doing exceptionally well, that has massive increases in its freight, is Belfast,” said Eugene Drennan, president of the Irish Road Haulage Association. “It’s a lot easier to go through the North with food products.”
A Stena Line survey found the biggest complaint among freight operators bringing goods into Dublin Port was the 24-hour pre-boarding notification period required for food products, plants and animals. The same notification period in Belfast is just four hours.
“It’s now the new deal. It’s now the way the state is choosing to go on.
“They’re the great protectors of the mighty EU customs code and there’s no need of any of it,” said Mr Drennan. He said that perishable goods – and even empty vans – are being detained for hours in Dublin due to what he termed the over-zealous application of EU customs rules.
The UK yesterday said it wanted “significant changes” to the way goods are traded between Britain and Northern Ireland, as set out in a protocol to the 2019 Brexit deal.
They include the end of checks on most goods exported from Britain to Northern Ireland, if they are destined only for the local market; the acceptance of UK food safety standards in Northern Ireland, particularly for chilled meats such as sausages and mince; and an end to the jurisdiction of the EU courts in monitoring the protocol.
The UK also suggested “a full dual regulatory regime” that would allow plant or animal goods to “be able to circulate within Northern Ireland if they meet UK or EU rules”.
The EU insists that the UK sign up for its food rules in the same way Switzerland has, which London has refused to do.