Ulster Unionist East Antrim MLA, Roy Beggs, has said that the recent detention of a Dublin bound P&O ferry at Liverpool should serve as a reminder as to how important sea routes are to Northern Ireland’s connectivity.
Roy Beggs MLA, said:
“The decision by Liverpool Port to detain the P&O Norbay vessel when haulage and vehicles had already been loaded onto it, was extremely irresponsible given that it is only essential items that are moving due to the Covid-19 crisis and highlights the importance of sea routes to the local economy.
“Undoubtedly some essential supplies destined for both Northern Ireland and the Republic will have suffered delays from loading, waiting on board the Norbay, unloading and then booking onto another ferry.
“There has been widespread recognition of the importance of air routes with regard to connectivity, but ferry routes are equally important in moving goods to market and enabling tourists to travel. What this incident exposes is the financial pressures that reduced freight and tourism must be having on ferry operators. This is particularly the case on the Dublin/GB route which has several nearby options provided by, Seatruck, Irish ferries and Stena – still operating from Dublin to Liverpool and Holyhead.
“Closure of a sea route can happen very quickly, but it takes considerable investment to open a new route. Northern Ireland is served from the Trust owned Ports of Belfast, Warrenpoint and Londonderry and the privately owned port of Larne. P&O own both the Port of Larne and their terminal at Cairnryan, with Sealink owning their terminal at Cairnryan, so the NI hauliers would be unlikely to suffer such unreasonable treatment by these main port operators. But undoubtedly, with the reduced demand for movement across the Irish Sea as a result of businesses being on lockdown, there is a potential loss of services.
“It is essential that the Executive and Secretary of State work together and listen to Port owners, hauliers and NI business so that competitive freighting options remain in place to maintain connectivity and assist the Northern Ireland economy recover.”