Harper says delays cannot be considered at Port of Cairnryan

South Scotland Emma Harper MSP fired a series of questions to Cabinet Secretary for Transport, Michael Matheson, regarding Cairnryan Port and its near future operations and infrastructure, with just 87 days to go until Brexit.



Ms Harper highlighted the importance of Cairnryan as an important euroroute, operating as Scotland’s third busiest port and with freight from and to Northern Ireland carrying £23 million along the A75 from the east of Dumfries and £10 million via the A77.

Ms Harper also questioned what engagement there is between Scottish and UK Governments in relation to what infrastructure and support is needed in and around the Port of Cairnryan to enable the smooth transportation of goods via the shortest crossing between the UK mainland and Northern Ireland.

Ms Harper said;

“We’re just 87 days away from Brexit and Northern Ireland protocol requires all goods to be checked. How confident are you that goods will continue to move easily between the Port of Cairnryan and Belfast and has the Scottish Government offered any support to owners of Cairnryan Port? Has the Scottish Government been engaging with the UK Government as well? We cannot allow delays to be considered - particularly over the transportation of livestock, fresh seafood, medicines and other time critical or temperature-controlled goods”.

Michael Matheson, Cabinet Secretary for Transport, responded;

“Capacity on the crossing at Loch Ryan runs around 50% so there’s existing capacity on the operation along with Stena and P&O if there was an increase in demand. The border operating model that UK Government intend to take forward is unclear – we don’t have detail  but I understand details will be published this week. Also it’s unclear where checks will take place – we’re aware of the limited site there is at Cairnryan for additional infrastructure for border checks. The engagement we’ve had with port operators is looking at an inland facility away from the port itself.

“The problem we have is UK Government funding for border checks comes from a Port Infrastructure Fund with funding limited to the port itself but the site of Cairnyran is too small. So we’re pursuing for flexibility around this funding so infrastructure that may be necessary for another location, where checks can take place, can help to meet any border operating model the UK Government wants to take forward.

“We continue to engage with UK Government on this matter but there is a greater need on clarity around the model they intend to operate with and flexibility around the funding they’re providing to support any model that’s going to be implemented.

There are significant concerns from the Road Haulage Association over the way actions are being handled by the UK Government including the lack of knowledge about the border operating model, the IT infrastructure which has not been tested yet and the possibility of delays– particularly for those transporting time critical goods such as medicines, livestock and seafood and other food products.