New “Brexit Buster” Ferry Route Launched to Bypass EU to UK Checks

By: Steven Tarbox
The Moroccan port of Tanger Med seen from above. The North African port is expected to soon be linked to Poole via a direct ferry service. Image: Tanger Med Port Authority.
The Moroccan port of Tanger Med seen from above. The North African port is expected to soon be linked to Poole via a direct ferry service. Image: Tanger Med Port Authority.

The port of Poole in Dorset has confirmed that a new company plans to open a direct link to Morocco. The once-weekly direct service from Tanger Med near Tangier, will utilise a Ro-Ro freight ferry.

Specialist food retail magazine The Grocer first reported the new route last week. It is expected to slash the current journey time from Morocco to the UK to less than three days.

The new company, United Seaways, states that the journey presently takes more than six days. The service will also remove the need for two separate ferry crossings to be undertaken in each direction.

No firm date has been been given yet for when the direct ferry services from Morocco will start. However, The Grocer states that United Seaways expects to start sailings in the coming months.

Brittany Ferries BARFLEUR. Image: Brittany Ferries.
Brittany Ferries BARFLEUR normally sails on that company’s route from Poole to Cherbourg. Image: Brittany Ferries.

Alternative to trading with Europe

United Seaways believes that its new service will be attractive to companies importing fresh produce. Additional checks on imports from the EU are due to be introduced from July. The Grocer reports that these additional checks could “cause a level of disruption the industry hasn’t seen for generations,” according to Nigel Jenney, CEO of the Produce Consortium.

The UK already has a trade deal with the Kingdom of Morocco. This removes the need for additional checks on direct shipments. According to Mr Jenney:

“Any solution that makes imports more effective, or eases trading with alternative countries, may well be a great opportunity for helping the UK source fresh produce from around the world.”

“I anticipate a strong demand for this new direct roro service,”

” The route offers a rapid service and avoids the additional tariff complications of trading via the EU since the beginning of the year. 

“At this challenging time, It’s very welcome alternative to the increasing complexity of trading with Europe.” 


The identity of the ship to be used has not yet been revealed. Options will likely be limited by length restrictions at Poole Harbour. To-date, the largest ferries to berth at the port are of the 186.5m-long Visentini class.

NORMAN VOYAGER at Le Havre in 2012. Image: Gary Andrews
LD Line’s NORMAN VOYAGER seen at Le Havre in 2012. On October 15, 2013, she set the record for the largest ferry to berth at Poole. The following month LD Lines started a new service from Poole to Santander using a part-sister ship. NORMAN VOYAGER is the current ETRETAT. Image: Gary Andrews

Better for the environment

United Seaways has been keen to talk up the environmental benefits of using ships instead of road transport, both on its website and in comments to the media. According to the company’s managing director Zeyd Fassi Fehri:

“Our aim is to support businesses with post-Brexit, supply chain challenges and opportunities. This service will create a sustainable and environmental alternative when launched in the coming months. The speed and efficiency of the vessel ensures a longer shelf life for fresh products whilst reducing road congestion, tolls and additional import procedures that have arisen since Brexit.”


Less road miles

Importers using the new direct ferry route from Morocco could cut out a road journey through Spain and France. This can be upwards of 2000km and includes ferries from Morocco to Spain and from Spain and France to the UK.

In addition to reducing the emissions footprint of fresh produce transport, the direct service could also see a reduction in driver and vehicle maintenance costs.

Captain Brian Murphy, Marine and Port Director at Poole Harbour Commissioners, said: 

“We are very excited to be hosting United Seaways’ brand-new roll-on-roll-off ferry service. It will reduce the time taken for goods to arrive by half and will see significant environmental benefits by reducing road freight.

“This is an exciting opportunity for UK, Moroccan and African importers and exporters, who are looking to develop existing and establish new business relationships. We will work closely with United Seaways to ensure this service is a huge success.

“With our high customer satisfaction levels, skilled workforce and ample operational space, the Port of Poole is ideally set up to receive both accompanied and unaccompanied freight.

“To avoid unnecessary disruptions, we work closely with UK Border Control, Port Health, and the Animal & Plant Health Agency to ensure that all the necessary checks are carried out as efficiently as possible right here on the Port estate.

“We are the “can-do” port and look forward to supporting the future growth of the UK import and export market.”


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