This month we are taking you to Ireland, where ESPO is sitting down with Glenn Carr, General Manager of Rosslare Europort, to discuss among others how he got into maritime transport, the positive and negative impact of Brexit on his port, how the port handled the COVID-19 pandemic, and how a port managing body can contribute to decarbonizing the transport and logistics sector.
Can you briefly tell us about the Port of Rosslare? What are its main characteristics and challenges?
Rosslare Europort is the closest geographical port to Europe and is the fourth largest port in Ireland in terms of overall tonnage handled, and the State’s second largest Ro-Ro traffic and passenger port. The port is operated as a division of Iarnród Éireann, who are the Port Authority for Rosslare Europort.
The port is in the Southeast region of Ireland in County Wexford and is just over 90 minutes from Dublin. With excellent road, rail and sea connectivity, Rosslare Europort can expertly handle roll-on roll-off freight and passengers, agricultural and trade vehicles, bulk cargo, oversize loads, cruise ships, wind turbines and other offshore renewable energy facilities.
With three Ro-Ro berths with a two tier linkspan, and a dedicated offshore bulk berth, the Europort is bar-swept to 7.2 meters, allowing unrestricted access to vessels with draughts up to 6.5 meters.
Rosslare Europort offers a comprehensive service including mooring, stevedoring and passenger-car/freight check-in for Ro-Ro shipping lines. Rosslare Europort has a fleet of Tugmasters service, fork-lift trucks, tractors and other handling equipment to cater for non-standard Ro-Ro freight..
Rosslare Europort is Ireland’s number one port for direct Ro-Ro services to Europe with 34 weekly services operating to and from Rosslare with Brittainy Ferries, Stena line and DFDS to the ports of Bilbao, Cherbourg and Dunkirk. The port also offers 54 weekly services to and from Rosslare to the ports of Pembroke and Fishguard in the UK with Irish Ferries and Stena Lines.
How did you get into maritime transport? How did your career path lead to this position?
My career started in retail where I worked in various areas and levels within the sector, from operations, logistics, to human resources management. Leaving retail, I moved into the rail industry with Irish Rail whom also operated Rosslare Europort. My career in the rail was initially within the human resources and industrial relations areas before moving to Head of Customer Relations.
From there I took over the role of Rail Freight Manager which involved interaction with ports where we operated rail freight services to and from. In late 2017, a restructuring of all commercial businesses took place that saw Rosslare Eurport, Rail Freight and a third logistics business known as Navigator merged under one General Manager. I was appointed to this role and took over Rosslare Europort at that time, as well as Rail Freight and Navigator.
What is your vision for the Port of Rosslare for the next decade?
In 2018 the port was facing a significant number of challenges and opportunities. Following my appointment I undertook a Strategic Plan for Rosslare Europort which was ratified by our Board. Our plan focuses on five key areas;
Digitalisation of the Port;
Currently we are in year two of our plan and are making significant positive progress in a number of areas most notably with;
Business Development: Our Strategic Plan identified the imperative for additional revenues generated through existing or new customers, business expansion with existing Ports or new Ports served from Rosslare, attracting new bulk and/or trade car opportunities and exploring the possibility of developing the Port as a supply base for the emerging Offshore Wind Energy in Ireland.
New services out of Rosslare have been secured with a significant increase in services to the continent with DFDS, Stena and Brittainy Ferries. Services to and from Rosslare in 2021 to the continent have increased from 6 per week in January 2020 to 34 per week from Q1 2021.
Masterplan: The Masterplan for Rosslare was granted planning permission in Q4 2020 and has identified a number of key infrastructure investments to make better use of available capacity, improve efficiencies and target specific sectors, while promoting the benefits of congestion-free access to European and UK markets.
Operations Efficiency: A review of the operating model in Rosslare Europort aligned to the current and future growth will be completed by Q2 2021. Rosslare Europort will be a 7-day operation 24 hours a day, with a continued focus on delivering an efficient, safe and flexible service to all of our customers.
Digitalisation of the Port: It is planned to invest circa €1.5M in the digitalisation of the port through the implementation of a fully integrated Port Terminal Management system. The system will be used to support freight/passenger check-in, vehicle recognition, custom port clearance, CCTV and damage reporting, resource planning, operational performance and automation, data capture, billing and administration activity at Rosslare Europort. Our focus is to create Ireland’s Smartest Port.
What are the main investment projects in the coming years?
There are four major investment plans identified for the port over the next 3-8 years. These include:
The port Masterplan, with a capital investment of €42M over the planning period which is necessary to maintain Rosslare’s position in the RORO/ROPAX market into the future and to better serve existing and new customers, in partnership with local and national stakeholders. Phase 1 works will commence in Q3 2021, with Phases 2/3 and 4 being completed over the next number of years of the five-year plan;
A new link road will be constructed and connected to the port and the new freight entrance which will provide direct access onto the final planned motorway that will be built and will connect Rosslare by motorway to major hubs like Dublin and Belfast;
Significant investment is planned for the permanent BCP (Border Control Post) at the port that will provide state-of-the-art facilities to ensure all regulatory checks take place with trade from 3rd countries;
Rosslare Europort offers the best location for Ireland’s National Offshore Wind Energy Hub. The port has the capability to be developed in the coming years to meet the need of the industry and we have put forward a very ambitious €200M plan to the Irish government to ensure that the required port infrastructure and the industries’ location of choice can be delivered to meet the needs of the industry and deliver the best return on the investment for the country.
Trade with the UK plays an important role for the Port of Rosslare. How has Brexit affected your port? Did you take any initiatives to help port stakeholders deal with the introduction of border controls?
Brexit has had a significant impact on the port, both positive and negative. UK freight through the port has declined by over 30% to date, however our Continental freight has increased by a phenomenal +440% and overall freight through the port is up by 60% which is a terrific story against the challenges the industry has faced in 2020 and 2021. Rosslare Europort worked with all stakeholders through 2019 and 2020, ensuring that all Brexit plans were put in place.
Huge effort and plans were put in place, which saw additional resources put in place working at the port, new border check facilities, new traffic management systems, ship scheduling reviews, full communication and advertising campaign, review of operations and safety procedures at the port.
The focus was to ensure that the port would remain congestion-free and that traffic would move through the port efficiently and without delays to the ships and we have been extremely happy that this has been achieved.
Brexit also came with opportunities for the Port of Rosslare, with the establishment of an additional number of direct routes between Ireland and the EU. Can you briefly explain why there is growth in the number of direct routes to the EU?
Brexit has brought uncertainty, risk, significant additional administration and cost to the supply chain in Ireland. For me it is very simple to avoid that; you go directly from Ireland to other Member States of the EU.
With Rosslare being the closest port to Europe, there are considerable benefits for the shipping lines to operate out of the port. As the final deadline of Brexit was clear, industry in Ireland began to look at their supply chain and saw the considerable disruption that was emerging and sought alternatives both with their supply lines in the UK and how they previously access Europe via the landbridge.
We worked closely with a number of shipping lines in trying to convince them to come to Rosslare and demonstrated the opportunities that Rosslare could offer. The market was very clear that it wanted and needed more direct services and connections to the EU and to avoid the landbridge, and it has been terrific to see Brittainy Ferries, Stena Line and DFDS step up with both the increase in capacity but more importantly the increase in frequency.
The new and additional services out of Rosslare have given real choice and alternatives for industry across all sectors in Ireland and have been hugely welcomed by all, which is reflective in the volumes we are now seeing on these services. As we move to 24-hour, 7-day per week operations at the port we can create further capacity and berthing slots for further services to and from Rosslare to Europe.
The COVID-19 crisis is having a profound impact on the European economy and society. What has been the impact of this crisis on the Port of Rosslare?
As well as the Brexit challenge, the maritime industry has also had to manage the COVID-19 pandemic which has affected us all in so many ways. Our priority was to keep our colleagues and customers of the port safe. Like many organisations, we had to change overnight our operations and how we worked while at the same time ensure that the port remained fully operational so that the supply chains could be protected in and out of the country.
I think in Ireland and across the world, the port, shipping and logistics industry has done an unbelievable job in keeping vital supply chains going throughout the pandemic.
In Ireland, the various stakeholders in our industry have collectively come together and have worked in a collaborative way with the support of the government and all key state agencies. At a Rosslare level we introduced many new working protocols, procedures, testing, equipment, etc. to protect our staff and our operations.
These procedures have worked really well and at no time so far through the pandemic have operations at the port been negatively affected. Great credit for this is down to the staff of the port, shipping lines, haulage companies and the state agency staff working at the port.
Financially this has brought added cost to our business but also sizable loss of revenue with the travel restriction on passenger services. As we move through 2021 and the vaccine rollout we very much are looking forward to welcoming our passengers back and are very excited about the opportunity to grow this market aligned with freight with the additional new services we have operating now at the port.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and its impact on global value and production chains, the debate on reshoring industry back to or closer to Europe and diversifying supply chains gained a new momentum. Do you think that, in time, we will see a reshoring of industry closer to Europe as well as more diversified supply chains?
I do think both Brexit and COVID-19 have led to a review of supply chains both in Europe and across the world. The market has shown to be very flexible in the last number of months, matching changes that has occurred in the supply chain.
I also think there will continue to be a significant influence on a greener and more sustainable way of moving goods, driven by regulatory but also by consumer demands. I do see from an Irish perspective more goods sourced from a European or local market and I expect to see more central warehousing being developed where new direct shipping routes have been established.
We are also seeing major players like Amazon set up specific marketplace operations in Ireland rather than serving the Irish market from another jurisdiction.
The Port of Rosslare is a comprehensive port of the Trans-European Transport Network (TEN-T). The Commission is currently preparing a review of the TEN-T policy. What are the main priorities for your port in that respect?
Rosslare Europort has demonstrated not just its regional importance but its national importance over the last number of months. It is essential that both National and EU future policies recognize the importance of comprehensive ports and the role they currently and in the future will play.
This must be supported both through policy and through funding mechanisms developed to enable ports like Rosslare to access appropriate funding so they can be developed to their full potential. Many Tier 1 ports face significant congestion issues and comprehensive ports are an obvious choice to be developed and help alleviate these problems and bring a more balance approach to regional economic development.
What are the Port of Rosslare’s environmental priorities?
Our focus will be on creating a greener and more sustainable port in everything we do. Currently we are undertaking a full review of all of our energy, lighting, and heating usage at the port and agreeing a programme of works to switch to more environmental sources.
As part of our Masterplan we are designing the port with the movement of traffic to be more efficient, less dwell times that will reduce our carbon footprint and introduce cost efficiencies at the same time. Any new tugs, vehicles etc. will be sourced with sustainability in mind. We also plan to initiate projects with the local community and schools in creating a biodiversity area at the port and ensuring at all times we protect the land and marine environment we operate in.
With its Green Deal, the EU aims to achieve a climate-neutral economy by 2050. How do you think a port managing body can contribute to decarbonising the transport and logistics chain?
Firstly, it is not something a port authority can do just on their own but we must work with all users and stakeholders of the industry and ensure collectively all of our activities are aligned and focused on a more sustainable way of how our industry operates into the future. Going forward it does not matter what industry you are in but there is now a compelling need for us all to play our part in reaching the targets that have now been agreed.
I have outlined above the actions we are taking directly in Rosslare, but through the evolution of more efficient ships, alternative fuels, electric, solar, and wind options in so many aspects of how ports and users of the ports operate there will be many opportunities for the industry to lead by example. From a passenger perspective travel will continue but passengers will seek a greener way of travelling and shipping offers a much more environmentally friendly way for international travel.