THE cutting of a ferry route from Rosslare to France will have a huge impact on the fish trade in Castletownbere, a Cork Senator has warned.
The West Cork town is the largest whitefish port in Ireland and its produce is exported through Rosslare. Senator Tim Lombard (FG) said the announcement by Irish Ferries to discontinue the Rosslare service will result in reduced access to the market.
“Some 2,500 articulated trucks leave [Castletownbere] every year,” he said. “They will now have to go to Dublin. We do not need extra traffic going through Dublin. Their route always went through Rosslare and out to the continent.
“They basically carried fish, particularly whitefish. As it is the largest whitefish port in Ireland, access to trade routes is a very important issue. That is a really core issue for us, particularly in light of Brexit.
“For any route to be curtailed is a big issue, but for this route to be curtailed is a major issue for us on the southern side of the island.
“We really need to examine how we can have a viable trade route to the continent that does not involve taking all our goods up the M50 and through Dublin. When I was Mayor of County Cork in 2012, we lost the Cork-Swansea ferry. That was a real loss to us as a community. It took us until the establishment of the Wild Atlantic Way to see recovery. The ferry service was a really important tourism link between us and Wales and was a major loss to our community,” he added.
The fish trade was worth nearly €100m in Castletownbere in 2016. Mr Lombard says it is not sustainable to have all Irish fish produce exported through Dublin Port and the Government needs encourage ferry companies to develop routes from other ports.
“We need to plan ways to support and develop these trade routes and to get access. Access to markets is so important. These access routes are literal lifelines for us. We have a major fishing trade, a major agricultural trade, pharmaceutical businesses and many other industries in the south. All our produce is now going through Dublin Port. From the Minister’s point of view it does not make logical sense. We need to promote these ports.
“Not only do we need to promote ports like Rosslare; the Port of Cork in particular needs to be promoted. We need to ensure viable trade routes out of the Port of Cork going to the continent. We have trade links at the moment through Brittany Ferries. That firm is very valuable, particularly on the weekends when it serves as a tourism route.
“There is also a route to Spain. However, we need to promote more if we can. The more access to markets we have, the better we will do as a society,” he added.
Transport Minister Shane Ross said ferry routes are dictated by the market.
“All shipping companies servicing routes to and from Ireland operate as independent commercial companies. The services are market-driven and in the past ferry operators have responded to economic developments and increased or decreased capacity in response to these developments. Any new initiatives to enhance shipping services must continue to be market-driven.”