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Brexit: ‘Plans in place’ to minimise port delays in Wales

Plans are in place to minimise disruption at Welsh ports – especially Holyhead – as the UK enters a post-Brexit new year.

The EU Brexit transition period is over, and lorry drivers heading to and from the Republic of Ireland require additional paperwork to travel.

Officials at Holyhead said some lorries have already been turned away because they had the wrong documentation.

The Welsh Government said it was doing what it could to “protect” the port.

Transport Minister Ken Skates said it was “imperative” contingency plans were in place for the island, as it wakes up to the new customs regime.

Ferry operators in Wales will now require freight customers to link customs information to their booking as they head for the Irish Republic.

Without that paperwork, port access will be refused.

“We’ve had the first few rejects, which is not unexpected,” said Stena Line’s Head of UK Ports, Ian Davies.

Speaking to BBC Radio Wales from Holyhead on New Year’s Day, he said it showed the new system was working.

“We’ve had people that have been passed and allowed to be shipped, and we’ve had a few failures as well, so it will be a learning curve for these customers.”

The Welsh Government said a “worst case scenario” published by the UK suggested 40% to 70% of heavy goods vehicles arriving at ports after transition ended on New Year’s Eve may not have the right documentation to travel.

The peak period for turning vehicles away is expected to be mid-January.

“We simply don’t know whether things are going to work,” said Rod McKenzie, who is managing director of policy for the body representing lorry drivers and operators, the Road Haulage Association.

“There is no question there will be problems, even if all the IT works, things could go wrong, and given traders’ unfamiliarity with it there is the potential for a lot of mistakes to be made.”

The association said it was more worried about “invisible delays” in the supply chain, rather than queues at ferry ports.

“Lorries might not leave their factory gate or depot because the paperwork isn’t done,” he said.

“It’s really, really important that people try to get their paperwork right. The consequences of any mistakes will be a disruption of the supply chain.”

He said the sector would know in about a week “how it’s going”.

Pembrokeshire council said it had been working to ensure any vehicles turned away from Pembroke Dock and Fishguard were dealt with away from the ports.

It has arranged overflow locations at Goodwick and Pembroke Dock for its own version of Dover’s “Operation Stack”, where lorries queue along the M20.

“The importance of Pembrokeshire’s ports to the county, Wales and UK as a whole cannot be overestimated,” said council leader David Simpson.

On Anglesey, a temporary contraflow is in force on the A55 expressway, eastbound between junctions two and four, allowing any traffic turned away from the port to be redirected back.

It will be moved to parking locations at Parc Cybi on the outskirts of the town, and if necessary, lorries will be parked on the cordoned-off A55 sections.

“We will monitor the situation carefully and as soon as it’s safe to do so we will remove the temporary contraflow,” said Mr Skates.

“While the next few days are expected to be quiet, we know it will become busier as we approach mid-January.

“Our aim is to do what we can to protect the port, town of Holyhead and wider community from any possible disruption.”

On Friday, port authorities on Anglesey said freight traffic has been quiet, as expected over the bank holiday period.

It follows an steep rise in lorry crossings in the run up to Christmas and the end of the transition period.

Ferry operator Stena Line is also responsible for running Holyhead Port.

“We can’t get complacent over the next few days,” said a Stena spokesman.

“It’s when freight levels come back up that we’ll know whether the systems are really working and whether the hauliers are ready. That will be the real test.”
Source: BBC

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