At a time when neither the name of the next British Prime Minister nor the date and conditions of Brexit are known, Ports of Normandy is continuing to prepare and do everything in its power to turn this situation into a development opportunity.
For over six months, its President, Hervé Morin, who is also President of Normandy Regional Council, has been meeting with many interested parties, travelling to Brussels to make the case for the Normandy ports, but also to London and to Ireland, in order to build up a precise picture of the situation and to promote the Norman ports, especially with our partners: Poole, Portsmouth and Newhaven.
Here is an update on how the traffic is reacting to this context: the trend is promising, but caution is advised.
Every year, more than 1.7 million passengers, 500,000 light vehicles and 160.000 HGVs travel between the United Kingdom and France through the Ports of Normandy cross-Channel terminals*. Brexit will affect 1 million passengers, 250,000 light vehicles and 100,000 HGVs, or 2.7 million tonnes of goods, just at the port of Caen-Ouistreham, the third busiest cross-Channel port in France. Figures aside, it is clear that the commercial stakes are pretty high for the Normandy economy.
That is why steps have been taken to manage these flows in the best possible conditions, with minimal impact on the free flow of traffic. Ports of Normandy and its operators (Caen-Normandy CCI at Ouistreham, Port de Cherbourg SAS and the Régie du Port de Dieppe) have joined forces with the Customs authorities, the Border Police and the DRAAF services to set up facilities that are already fully operational and ready to be put into action as soon as Brexit comes into force. The facilities mainly consist of buildings fitted out to house veterinary and phytosanitary border inspection services (SIVEP), customs control stations, car parks, modular buildings for domestic animal controls, signage, etc. All these installations have been approved by the European authorities.
The Ports of Normandy are therefore ready to implement Brexit, and the first consequences of the changes in the import-export rules are already being felt on our traffic.
A Brexit situation, which as things currently stand, is favourable to cross-Channel traffic
The aggregate figures up to the end of May 2019 show that Ports of Normandy's cross-Channel traffic is up by almost 1.5% for passengers and over 6.5% for goods.
In detail, cross-Channel passenger traffic on aggregate at the end of May was up 0.9% for the ferry lines to the United Kingdom and 5.7% for those to Ireland.
Although the overall trend is still upward, the figures seem to be the illustration of the intermediate phase that we are experiencing prior to the implementation of Brexit and its specific conditions. Firstly, the results of the cross-Channel lines remain a mixed bag. And although the traffic to the United Kingdom remains positive on aggregate (0.9%), the monthly traffic figures for May were actually quite disappointing. This is indicative of the wait-and-see attitude the British are taking regarding their leisure activities or holidays in the face of Brexit uncertainty. The cross-Channel companies are all feeling the effects of this waiting game on all their lines.
On the other hand, traffic to Ireland, has bounced back with an increase of 5.7% on aggregate at the end of May. They are clearly benefiting from the entry into service of Irish Ferries' WB Yeats in March, which explains the 62% leap in monthly traffic in May.
Concerning goods, the cross-Channel lines saw a rise of 6.5% in traffic with the United Kingdom and almost 7% with Ireland.
Ports of Normandy benefited in the first quarter from the customs service work to rule on the Dover Straits as well as from stockpiling in the United Kingdom to avert the effects of Brexit, which was initially supposed to happen in March.
Since the end of the first quarter in a context marked by new political and economic uncertainty in Britain, trade has tended to fall off.
Traffic with Ireland, in terms of numbers of HGVs was up 12% over the first 5 months of the year. The entry into service of the WB Yeats on the Dublin route is in response to high demand and has had no impact on the volumes carried by Stena Line, the other operator serving Ireland.
These results confirm the Normandy team's strategy, which they have been rolling out in conjunction with the operators for several months now, namely to do everything possible to be "Brexit ready" in order to keep the traffic flowing freely through our 3 ports and win new customers.
The next steps in this fundamental ongoing process are:
- Upgrading of the SIVEPs, which is necessary to maintain the approvals granted for the emergency phase in March
- Completion of the civil engineering work at Cherbourg
- Continuing the planning of the medium-term adaptations of the terminals and facilities.