The U.K. Government is to review its emergency funding scheme for ferry operators after complaints from a Plaid Cymru MP, local councillors and the Welsh Government according to the Daily Post. The port, which is the busiest in Wales and second busiest in Great Britain for Ro-Ro freight traffic, has two ferry services to Dublin. Like the Holyhead – Dublin services operated by Stena Line and Irish Ferries, P&O Ferries and Seatruck Ferries Liverpool – Dublin routes have also been left out of the scheme.
At present the UK Government’s £17m scheme only covers routes sailing to Northern Ireland from Great Britain. As similar Irish Government scheme covers mainly routes from Rosslare. Irish Ferries Dublin – Cherbourg service is the sole exception. Both government’s schemes are designed support ferry operators who provide critical routes for food, medicines and other essential supplies over a time limited period. This is two months in the case of the UK/NI scheme. A separate undisclosed amount has also been made available by the UK for 26 routes linking Great Britain with Europe, however, routes to Ireland are not included in this scheme either. The Northern Ireland executive is to cover 40% of the cost of the UK & Northern Ireland scheme.
Important to NI
The Central Corridor routes from Dublin to Holyhead and Liverpool are important for traffic going to and from Northern Ireland. Some estimate that as much as a third of all Northern Ireland Ro-Ro freight may pass through Dublin. While Belfast leads Holyhead in terms of freight units handled due to its three Stena Line routes, Holyhead is by far the leader in terms of passenger vehicles carried. The lack of passenger traffic due to movement restrictions will in theory, therefore, impact Holyhead even more than Belfast.
Freight and passenger traffic down
According to their official Q1 2020 statistics, both cars and passengers passing through Dublin Port are down by around 18% versus the same period last year. With the full impact of COVID-19 restrictions not felt until towards the end of the quarter, this figure is likely much higher at present. Despite the initial boost to freight traffic as a result of stockpiling, the decline is already evident in the Q1 statistics with a drop of over 5%. Again, the current figure is likely to be much higher, especially given reductions in the number of crossings have taken place both sides of the Irish border.
Already Irish Ferries has decided not to operate its Dublin – Holyhead fast-craft DUBLIN SWIFT until further notice. Stena Line have also reduced sailings over some weekends, when freight volumes tend to be lower. The company are also reducing theoretical passenger capacity on their Holyhead service with the replacement of STENA ESTRID with STENA NORDICA so the former can undergo maintenance. At present no timeline appears to have been put on the UK scheme review process, which is being undertaken by Government ministers.
What routes Qualify for government funding?
The following routes from the Island of Ireland currently qualify for funding (at the time of writing);
|Belfast – Cairnryan||Stena Line||UK Government scheme|
|Belfast – Heysham||Stena Line||UK Government scheme|
|Belfast – Liverpool (Birkenhead)||Stena Line||UK Government scheme|
|Dublin – Cherbourg||Irish Ferries||Irish Government scheme|
|Larne – Cairnryan||P&O Ferries||UK Government scheme|
|Rosslare – Bilbao||Brittany Ferries||Irish Government scheme|
|Rosslare – Cherbourg||Stena Line||Irish Government scheme|
|Rosslare – Fishguard||Stena Line||Irish Government scheme|
|Rosslare – Pembroke Dock||Irish Ferries||Irish Government scheme|
|Warrenpoint – Heysham||Seatruck Ferries||UK Government scheme|
Notably, all of the routes which qualify for Irish Government funding are single ship services which rely heavily on the seasonal passenger trade.
What routes do not currently Qualify for funding?
The following routes do not currently qualify for funding from either government scheme;
|Dublin – Heysham||Seatruck Ferries|
|Dublin – Holyhead||Stena Line|
|Dublin – Holyhead||Irish Ferries|
|Dublin – Liverpool||P&O Ferries|
|Dublin – Liverpool||Seatruck Ferries|