News

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 13 January 2021

Media Summary

Post-Brexit demand for direct ferries causes capacity problems
The Irish Times, Simon Carswell, 13 January

The Irish Times reports that capacity issues are building on direct ferries between Ireland and mainland Europe as lorries avoiding Brexit checks through Britain are “bumped” to make way for vital imports of medicines and medical equipment.

Disruption to the supply chain through the UK landbridge has forced importers and exporters to rely more heavily on limited direct services between Rosslare and French ports.

Aidan Coffey, Route Director of DFDS, which started a new ferry service between Rosslare and Dunkirk on January 2nd, said it was trying to accommodate as many requests as possible but has been “overwhelmed” by bookings. The company has committed to prioritise the transport of medicine and medical supplies.

 

Covid: Boris Johnson approves pilot for 24 hour vaccine hub, report claims
The Independent, Vincent Wood, 13 January

The Independent reports that Boris Johnson has approved a pilot 24/7 coronavirus vaccine service to see if the provision will speed up the rollout of the jab.

After initially pushing back on the idea of an all-hours service to get people into vaccine hubs, the PM has given his approval to a scheme for such a service to check its effectiveness.

A Downing Street spokesperson referred back to Health Secretary Matt Hancock’s comments earlier this week that such an offering would “absolutely” go ahead if necessary. “We will do whatever it takes to get this vaccine rolled out as fast as possible,” she told The Independent.

This story was also reported in the Financial Times.

 

Parliamentary Coverage

Northern Irish Vaccination programme published
Northern Irish Department of Health, 12 January

The Northern Irish Department of Health has published the phased plan for NI’s COVID-19 vaccination programme.

As has been repeatedly emphasised, the rate of progress will be dependent on the availability of vaccines, supplied as part of UK-wide arrangements.

The deployment plans involve a mixture of delivery models which include:

  • Large fixed regional vaccination sites run by HSC Trusts;
  • Mobile Trust teams to visit care homes; and
  • Primary Care based model.

The vaccines are received via Public Health England before being stored in a distribution hub. From there, the vaccine is delivered, as required, to Trust pharmacy sites or a GP practice. It is also intended that community pharmacy will be involved as the programme continues to be rolled out, subject to the availability of sufficient supplies of a suitable vaccine.

The implementation of the vaccination programme will continue to closely follow the prioritisation list recommended by JCVI.

You can read the vaccination plan here.

 

Full Coverage

Post-Brexit demand for direct ferries causes capacity problems
The Irish Times, Simon Carswell, 13 January

Capacity issues are building on direct ferries between Ireland and mainland Europe as lorries avoiding Brexit checks through Britain are “bumped” to make way for vital imports of medicines and medical equipment.

Hauliers booked onto the new Rosslare to Dunkirk service operated by shipping line DFDS have complained that bookings are not being honoured where the ferries are overbooked.

This has caused problems for hauliers seeking certainty to transport fresh food to and from mainland Europe as they avoid delays at post-Brexit border controls on Irish-British routes.

Disruption to the supply chain through the UK landbridge has forced importers and exporters to rely more heavily on limited direct services between Rosslare and French ports.

Aidan Coffey, Route Director of DFDS, which started a new ferry service between Rosslare and Dunkirk on January 2nd, defended the shipping line’s booking system, saying that it was trying to accommodate as many requests as possible but that it has been “overwhelmed” by bookings.

The company had to be “as fair as we possibly can” but had given a commitment to the HSE and Department of Transport to prioritise the transport of medicine and medical supplies.

A DFDS “priority ship” brought in a mobile Covid testing lab on the 24-hour sailing from Dunkirk to Rosslare on Monday night.

“We are prioritising where we can. Sometimes when you are prioritising on critical medicines and medical equipment like that, you have to bump others on to other sailings,” he said.

“It is a trying time for everybody in transport and shipping. Systems are under pressure.”

Mr Coffey described the landbridge – over which about 150,000 Irish trucks cross every year – as a “no go” because of post-Brexit customs and regulatory checks blocking up supply chains.

Stena Line and Brittany Ferries are also operating direct services but there has been strong demand for these ferries too because of delays from Brexit border controls at Irish Sea ports.

The Irish Ferries WB Yeats ship has been switched, three months ahead of plan, from the Irish Sea Dublin-Holyhead route to the Dublin-Cherbourg route to transport Irish freight directly to mainland Europe, reflecting the decline in the use of British landbridge by Irish hauliers.

The haulage industry has called on the Department of Transport to review urgently the capacity on direct routes and urged a temporary solution by moving extra ferry capacity from Irish Sea to direct routes as ferry operators cancel sailings between Ireland and Britain.

Aidan Flynn, General Manager of Freight Transport Association Ireland, said that there was “over-demand” for direct ferries in an “unusually quiet period.”

“If capacity isn’t increased urgently, the Irish supply chain will struggle,” he said.

He questioned the accuracy of the recent assessment by the Irish Maritime Development Office that there was “enough capacity” on the mainland Europe ferries.

“The fact that hauliers with bookings on direct services are being bounced because of overbooking demonstrates that this theory has been challenged,” he said.

Mr Coffey said that DFDS was not deliberately over-booking ferries but that it did have an issue where its system was issuing too many standby bookings.

“They were only on standby where the hauliers should have actually waited to get a confirmed booking before travelling. Some of them actually travelled to the port,” he said.

There were reports of 20 lorries being stranded at Rosslare last weekend.

Asked whether the ferry company was considering adding more direct routes and sailings to its service, Mr Coffey said that DFDS was “looking at alternatives.”

“We are getting everybody we can on but we don’t have a magic wand. We can’t fix everyone’s problems,” he said.

Haulier Laurence O’Toole, Managing Director of Co Galway-based O’Toole Transport, a transport of fresh Irish seafood, said that solutions were needed quickly to guarantee the cross-border transport of Irish goods through the Brexit checks at Irish, British and French ports.

“The new direct ferries haven’t got near enough capacity. We need another 20 ships per week going to Europe,” he said.

“I can’t begin to imagine what it will be like once holidaymakers start moving again.”

 

Covid: Boris Johnson approves pilot for 24 hour vaccine hub, report claims
The Independent, Vincent Wood, 13 January

Boris Johnson has approved a pilot 24/7 coronavirus vaccine service to see if the provision will speed up the rollout of the jab.

The prime minister has come under pressure to increase the pace of the rollout which has so far seen more than 2,430,000 people given the first round of the vaccine.

However after Downing Street initially pushed back on the idea of an all-hours service to get people into vaccine hubs, the PM has given his approval to a scheme for such a service to check its effectiveness, according to the Financial Times.

A Downing Street spokesperson referred back to health secretary Matt Hancock’s comments earlier this week that such an offering would “absolutely” go ahead if necessary.

“We will do whatever it takes to get this vaccine rolled out as fast as possible”, she told The Independent.

The government has pledged to vaccinate 13 million of the highest-priority individuals by the middle of February – a target it is a month and just under 11 million jabs away from.

Sir Kier Starmer has urged the government to oversee “a really round-the-clock vaccine programme, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, in every village and every town, in every high street and every GP surgery”.

Former Prime Minister Tony Blair, who has reportedly been advising Mr Hancock among others, has also been an advocate for rapid rollout of the vaccine – writing in The Independent that instead of prioritising those at risk “the aim should be to vaccinate as many people as possible in the coming months”.

However, earlier this week the prime minister’s press secretary Allegra Stratton said there had not been a “clamour” for late night vaccinations from the public.

“If people come back and say they would like an appointment over 8pm then that is something they will consider. My understanding is at the moment there’s not a clamour for appointments late into the night or early in the morning.

“If it was the case, then it is something the NHS could well consider. They are doing their absolute utmost to get the jab into people’s arms as quickly as possible.”

HDA UK Media and Political Bulletin – 13 January 2021

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