Additional ferry services laid on for a no-deal Brexit have begun operating, despite the fact that the UK has not yet left the EU and the government is hastily trying to recoup its investment.
Late last year, Brittany Ferries and DFDS, alongside the ill-fated Seaborne Freight, were contracted by the Department for Transport (DfT) to provide extra capacity from 29 March to offset any disruption from the expected resumption of customs checks in a no-deal Brexit. However, following the government’s failure to get a deal over the line in Parliament, it was forced to ask the EU for an extension to the deadline.
But this appears not to have affected the ferry contracts and a spokesperson for Brittany Ferries confirmed to The Loadstar that its additional weekly sailings had commenced as contracted.
It also suggests: “Alternatively, lines could utilise space on the intra-Europe itineraries of deepsea services; using 1% of effective capacity on these services would satisfy demand.
“For example, on the Asia-North Europe trade, a service calling first at Rotterdam could unload European imports, load exports to Asia and to the UK, call at a UK port, discharge imports for Europe and continue to Asia,” Drewry explains. Drewry found there is easily enough spare port capacity and calculated that some 6.9m teu of capacity across the country’s container terminals is not currently utilised.
“There is a total 5.9m teu of spare UK container terminal capacity over a wide geographical range. There is ample capacity to cover Dover overflow. Lines would be able to offer shippers a wide range of UK origins and destinations,” it adds. In terms of vessel capacity it also says there are a variety of options available to carriers to meet potential demand – which should be of little surprise to industry observers, given how overcapacity continues to plague global liner trades. There are currently 23 weekly box services between the UK and North Europe, 15 of which are feeder services. Assuming a 20% shift from Dover, demand would increase by around 4,800 teu a week each way.
“This demand could be covered either by making use of spare capacity on shortsea services running today, or by launching new services – six weekly services of 1,000 teu would suffice. There is ample container supply in North Europe to cover intra-Europe demand,” says the report.
“An alternative to launching new services would be to increase capacity on current services. This could be achieved relatively easily on the existing services, which have direct connections between Rotterdam/Antwerp and UK ports.
It also added that redesigning container supply chains by carriers could satisfy the expected increase in demand for box equipment, should trailer traffic shift to containers.
“North Europe, in general, imports more full containers than it exports. Surplus containers on the continent could be used for exports to the UK. After unpacking, these containers could be moved to demand locations in Asia on deepsea services,” it said.