Stena Line to Double Freight Capacity Post-Brexit
has announced it is doubling up its capacity ahead of Brexit by adding an additional freight-only vessel to its Rosslare to Cherbourg route from 4th January 2021. Due to the expected bottlenecks that will occur between the UK and the EU beginning next month, having an option for good to bypass this appears good supply chain management.
Meeting increased demand
The Stena Foreteller will join the Stena Horizon which already operates on the Ireland to France route, doubling the freight capacity as well as the frequency of sailings between Ireland and the Continent. The Rosslare to Cherbourg service is an increasingly important freight link between Ireland and the wider European continent. Stena Foreteller will provide an additional 3,000 lane metres of freight capacity per trip and can accommodate a mix of accompanied and unaccompanied traffic with onboard facilities for up to 12 freight drivers.
Niclas Mårtensson, CEO Stena Line said: “We have been listening carefully to feedback from our customers, and it has become clear that there is demand for increased frequency on the Rosslare-Cherbourg service, the shortest direct crossing between Ireland and France.
- Stena Line is the largest ferry operator on the Irish Sea
- Seaports and ferry terminal operators are expecting huge logistical challenges in January
- With 37 vessels on 18 routes, Stena Line is a key player in the European logistics network
“One of Stena Line’s key strengths is our ability to utilise our fleet and be flexible and responsive to market opportunities and changes. On the Irish Sea, we are very well positioned to cover the requirements of the freight and logistics sector with a choice of six routes serving Britain and Europe via landbridge or our direct crossings to France.”
“Now with 12 weekly crossings connecting Rosslare and Cherbourg and up to 240 sailings per week throughout the Irish Sea region, we offer transport organisations and their customers the flexibility, availability and reliability required to get their goods to market in the most convenient way.”
Brexit preparations commence
The news comes fresh off the heels of news the HAROPA Ports, which is a collection of seaport entities along Normandy and into Paris, is strengthening their operations and have successfully carried out dry-run border checks in anticipation of the changing trade relationship between Great Britain and places such as France.
Glenn Carr, General Manager, Rosslare Europort said: “We warmly welcome Stena Line’s decision to double Rosslare to Cherbourg services from the beginning of 2021. It reflects the strength of the partnership between Rosslare Europort and Stena Line in providing shipping solutions to Irish industry, and the commitment of Stena Line reinforces our ambitious commitments to continue the development of port facilities, infrastructure and technology under the Strategic Plan and Masterplan for the port. Rosslare Europort is now firmly Ireland’s Gateway to Europe and a central strategic link connecting the country and the European continent.”
Stena Line is the largest ferry operator on the Irish Sea, in total operating 37 vessels and 18 routes in Northern Europe, making it an important part of the European logistics network and develops new intermodal freight solutions by combining transport by rail, road and sea.
Driver shortages: Why the industry needs to be worried
While driver shortages are a global problem, with a recent survey from the International Road Transport Union suggesting that driver shortages are expected to increase by 25% year-on-year across its 23 member countries, the issue has very much made itself felt for UK businesses in recent weeks.
A perfect storm of factors, which many within the industry have been wary of, and warning about, for months, have led to a situation wherein businesses are suddenly facing significant difficulties around transporting goods to shelves on time, as well as inflated operating costs for doing so.
What’s more, the public may also see price rises as a result due to demand outmatching supply for certain product lines, which in turn brings with it the risk of customer dissatisfaction and a hit to brand and stakeholder reputation. Given that this price inflation has been speculated to hit in October, when the extended grace period on Brexit customs checks comes to an end, the worst may be yet to come.
"Steps must be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for younger drivers, which will require a joint effort from government, industry bodies, and the sector as a whole"
That said, we have already been hearing reports of service interruption due to lack of driver availability, meaning that volumes aren’t being transported, or delivered, to required schedules and lead times. A real-world example of this occurred on the weekend of 4-6 June with convenience retailer Nisa, with deliveries to Nisa outlets across the UK affected by driver shortages to its logistics provider DHL.
But where has this skills shortage stemmed from?
Supply is the primary issue. Specifically, the number of available EU drivers has decreased by up to 15,000 drivers due to Brexit alone, and this has been further exacerbated by drivers returning to their home country during the COVID-19 pandemic, as well as changes to foreign exchange rates making UK a less desirable place to live and work. This, alongside the recent need to manage IR35 tax changes, has also led to significant inflation in driver and transport costs.
COVID-19 complications have also meant that there have been no HGV driver tests over the past year, meaning the expected 6,000-7,000 new drivers over the past year have not appeared. With the return of the hospitality sector we understand that this is a significant challenge with, for instance, order delivery lead times being extended.
It is little surprise, therefore, that the Road Haulage Association (RHA) earlier this month became the latest in a long line of industry spokespeople to write to the government about the driver shortage for trucks. The letter echoed the view held by much of the industry, that the cause of this issue is both multi-faceted and, at least in some aspects, long-standing.
So, many in the industry are in agreement as to the driving factors behind this crisis. But what can be done?
Simply enough, outside of businesses completely reorganising their supply chain network, external support is needed. In the short-term, the government should consider providing the industry with financial aid, and this can also be supported more widely with legislative change.
Specifically, immigration policy could be updated to place drivers on the shortage occupations list, which would go some way towards easing the burden created by foreign drivers returning to their home countries. Looking elsewhere, government should also look for ways to increase the availability of HGV driver tests after the blockage created by the coronavirus lockdowns.
Looking more long-term, steps must be taken to make a career in the industry a more attractive proposition for younger drivers, which will require a joint effort from government, industry bodies, and the sector as a whole. As it stands, multiple sources suggest that the average age of truck drivers in the UK is 48, with only one in every hundred drivers under the age of 25. We must therefore do more to increase the talent pipeline coming into the industry if we are to offset more significant skills shortages further down the line.
On the back of a turbulent year for the supply chain industry, it has become increasingly clear that the long-foretold shortage of drivers is now having a tangible and, in places, crippling effect on supply chains.
Drivers, and the wider supply chain industry, have rightly been recognised for the seismic role they played in keeping the nation moving and fed over the past year under unprecedented strain. If this level of service is to continue, we must now see Government answer calls to provide the support the sector needs, and work hand-in-hand with the industry to find a solution. If we do not see concrete action to this effect soon, we are likely to be in for a turbulent few months.
Rob Wright is executive director at SCALA, a leading provider of management services for the supply chain and logistics sector