The General Manager at Rosslare Europort has said it has been is experiencing "unprecedented" demand for direct sail services to the continent.

Speaking on RTÉ's News at One, Glen Carr said Rosslare, which is now facilitating 16 sailings to Europe per week, compared to three last year, has capacity to handle extra sailings, should they be required.

"It is unbelievable, unprecedented demand.

"We will monitor the situation and we are available for extra sailings," Mr Carr said.

Mr Carr was speaking as Rosslare Europort has seen a 45% jump in freight traffic during January compared to the same period last year.

UK traffic is down 49% for the month, but European freight is up by a massive 446% year-on-year.

Hauliers have been opting for direct services to the EU via Dunkirk and Cherbourg in France rather than using the UK landbridge. 

Mr Carr said there has been an increase across all industries, including food, retail and pharmaceutical. 

He said Rosslare is seeing 19-22 Amazon trucks per day, when before there were almost none, as trucks would have chosen to come through the UK.

He said hauliers are reporting greater productivity from their drivers as a result of the new routes, as well as security of supply chain, and consistent delivery of service.

Mr Carr said the Covid testing facilities that are in place near Rosslare are "working very smoothly".

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Meanwhile, the total traffic through the Port of Cork was down 2% last year, to 9.2 million tonnes.

It said the dip in trade traffic is a direct result of the challenges posed by Covid-19 and the cancellation of cruise ships to Cork in particular.

Despite these challenges, it said overall container traffic increased by 4%.

The port attributes the strong performance in this area to several drivers, mainly a demand from customers for direct routes, resulting in the introduction of several new container services.

Other areas of port traffic, such as liquid bulk and break bulk decreased marginally, however it said these areas are expected to return in 2021.

Conor Mowlds, Chief Commercial Officer, Port of Cork

Conor Mowlds, Chief Commercial Officer, Port of Cork said while 2020 was a challenging year, their operations remained open throughout.

"We continued to play an important role in ensuring supply chains were maintained across the southern half of the country.

"With the significant efforts that are being placed in the development of effective return protocols, we are confident that we will see a return to some level of cruise activity by the end of this year, and certainly in 2022.

"Even with the challenges of the global pandemic and the advent of Brexit, the Port of Cork has welcomed several new freight services to the continent and an exciting, innovative direct link to the US, showing our resilience and capability to adapt, and our commitment to fulfilling our role as a vital cog in keeping the region moving".

Bantry Bay Port Company, sister port to the Port of Cork, had a strong performance and reported an increase in total trade traffic in 2020 to 1.3 million tonnes.