A new six-day per week ferry service between Rosslare Europort and Dunkirk in northern France has been announced by logistics giant DFDS.
The new service is aimed at giving hauliers and the wider Irish industry sector a new option to replace the UK landbridge, post-Brexit, amid fears of hours-long delays on the landbridge once customs and other checks come into force in the new year.
Starting on 2 January, the new service will bring to 13 the number of direct weekly sailings between Rosslare Europort and the European continent, each way, during peak times of year.
"This is a hugely exciting development, not only for us in Rosslare Europort, but for Ireland as a whole, Irish industry, and the haulage sector", port general manager Glenn Carr said this morning.
Fears have been expressed by many in international trade recently about the effects Brexit will have on Irish business, particularly because of anticipated lengthy delays in the UK because of the need to have Customs checks for traffic travelling between that country and EU countries.
Irish hauliers currently complete tens of thousands of journeys across the landbridge and into the continent every year.
"We have engaged with Irish hauliers and their representatives, to understand their needs, particularly in the context of Brexit, and worked with shipping operators and ports in Europe to identify strong offerings for the sector", Mr Carr said.
Voyage time for the Rosslare-Dunkirk will be 24 hours, which is longer than the sailings to other French ports such as Cherbourg or Roscoff, but will bring hauliers and other users within three hours of Paris and 20 minutes from the Belgian border.
"We welcome DFDS to Rosslare, and look forward to building an enduring partnership with them", Mr Carr said.
Other shipping operators already sailing from Rosslare to the continent are StenaLine, Irish Ferries and Brittany Ferries.
There are currently three return sailings between Rosslare and France each week, as well as three between Dublin and Cherbourg and three between Dublin and Rotterdam. However, they all leave on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays.
From January, there will be six return sailings from Rosslare to Dunkirk every week, as well as three or four to Cherbourg (StenaLine), depending on the week; while other destinations from Rosslare include Bilbao in Spain (Brittany Ferries, twice a week) and Roscoff in France (Brittany Ferries, once a week from March).
"The new service, which will provide a crucial freight route, will also be very attractive for inbound and outbound tourism when Covid travel restrictions are eased", Mr Carr said.
News of the additional route has been given a broad welcome, with the Irish Exporters' Association saying today that the new line will limit reliance on the landbridge by Irish supply chain operators.
"Today's announcement is timely, given that we are just over a month away from the end of the UK’s transition period", chief-executive Simon McKeever said.
"Routing and Customs formalities are two of the main issues that IEA members have concerns about, and are planning for. In terms of routing, finding alternatives that are a viable alternative to the landbridge is key."
Meanwhile, Shannon Chamber said it was the news that Irish companies needed to hear.
"Exporters now have certainty in that they will have a direct route to Europe from January 2nd, 2021," vice-president Eoin Gavin said.
"[It] will remove the much-dreaded alternative option of having to route goods destined for Europe on trucks through the Irish Sea ports, onwards via road through England and across the English Channel to mainland Europe, via the UK landbridge."