Port of Holyhead sees traffic plummet due to Brexit

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Brexit continues to impact England and surrounding countries. The somewhat messy exit from the EU caused customs hold-ups and longer wait times forcing some maritime operators to choose alternate routes to avoid the short sea crossing between Dublin and Holyhead in Wales.
We pulled our data to check-in on activity at Holyhead and found that port traffic plummeted in January 2021 and continues to decline through today. The Guardian reported freight volume is down a whopping 50% as haulers are opting for routes from Ireland to France without entering the UK.
This is also impacting small business trade from the UK to Ireland, where companies previously sent cargo vehicles on RORO (roll-on/roll-off) from the UK to Ireland.

Our data tracks the decline

These charts show port events from November 2020 through February 2021 where you can see the decline in port events.

This shows the port’s activity from November 2020 to present, as you can see it remains fairly consistent to the median other than a sharp decline on the 26 December which is boxing day in the UK, the day after Christmas. By mid-January declines are becoming more common and the line becomes more erratic.

This chart shows the Port of Holyhead traffic during the month of  January 2021, the beginning of the month is fairly stable, but fluctuations are apparent by the end of the month. 

This chart shows the Port of Holyhead traffic during the month of February 2021, compared to January, this month is more erratic. These ships are RORO’s, carrying goods from Ireland to France or from the UK to Ireland.

What’s next

The Port of Holyhead is a commercial and ferry port located in Anglesey, Wales, The once-popular port managed more than 2 million passengers each year and was the cornerstone of British-Irish trade in the 19th century. Prior to Brexit, the landbridge was the fastest and most reliable route to continental Europe. About 150,000 lorries a year used the short sea crossing between Dublin and Holyhead then to Dover or Calais. Estimates number the jobs at Holyhead at 1,000 and many worry that employment will be limited at the once-bustling port if traffic doesn’t increase.

Is this just the beginning of Brexit disruptions on maritime trade?

This is likely just the beginning of trade disruptions for maritime trade between Northern Ireland, the UK, and other parts of Europe. With new customs checks, it is likely there will be a lot of issues moving goods, especially food and animal products from the UK to the EU.
Both Governments are currently canvassing the impact of the new Irish sea trade arrangements, invoking the Swiss model as a way to ease disruption. However, new protocols are not fully up and running yet and there are still a number of grace periods in place.

We will continue to monitor port traffic and see how this story unfolds. Download the free data sample and use our data to tell this story or contact us for a customized data set.

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