There seems to be great enthusiasm for this connection to Europe to open up again, taking passengers and freight from Scotland to our continental neighbours; boosting trade, growing exports and tourism opportunities for our nation.
Project Brave has certainly been a long haul so far for a relatively short ferry crossing. I’ve been working with Ptarmigan Shipping Director, Derek Sloan, for quite some time on getting this service operational again. We have a reliable and highly professional ferry operator lined up in the shape of DFDS (Det Forenede Dampskibs-Selskab) who have shown a keen interest in making our need for a passenger and freight service from Rosyth into the EU a reality. Talks continue with Forth Ports and the receiving port on the European mainland. Difficulties raised by the UK Border Force are being ironed out with pragmatic and dynamic solutions sought on both sides.
A Rosyth ferry crossing not only reduces congestion but is environmentally sound
Derek is well known for the success of the Brexit busting ferries from the Republic of Ireland, set up in preparation for Britain’s exit from Europe in order to avoid using the subsequently log-jammed UK land bridge. While the UK’s exports lie languishing in huge lorry queues at Dover or tied up in Brexit red tape and new customs procedures, Irish ferries sail direct into European ports delivering goods straight to market.
Add in delays in air traffic alongside blockages in England, there’s never been a better time to get this ferry connection from Rosyth up and running to boost Scotland’s opportunities in mainland Europe.
What’s good for our connectivity is also good for the environment. Taking freight off the road and rail networks, and carrying it by sea would reduce emissions by a hugely significant and impressive amount. This will also aid road traffic control, not to mention the impact on our tourism carbon footprint.
Leading industry group says Brexit hampering the ability to export seamlessly
Given the challenges of recent years in terms of Brexit, the global pandemic and the terrible war in Ukraine, it’s vital we support growth in trading opportunities for Scotland as well as opening up prospects for new tourism routes. Recent analysis by the Institute of Export and International Trade, in their Global Horizons: Realising the Services Export Potential of UK Nations and Regions, calls on the UK Government to deepen trade relationships with international partners. The aim is to remove regulatory friction, reduce costs and establish formalised agreements that lock in existing levels of market access.
In addition, a report published in September by the Institute of Directors on Setting a Meaningful Export Target for Britain revealed that IoD members believe that Brexit has “hampered their ability to export seamlessly to the EU, or in some cases, to export at all”. The IoD recommend that the UK Government needs to set a more meaningful target on exports in order to understand the impacts of their policies so far. This includes focusing on increasing the proportion of businesses that are exporters by 2030.
One way to do this is to open new routes to Europe and thus increase export opportunity from Scotland, which Holyrood sees as a huge potential. They are well aware of the negative impacts of leaving the EU and our citizens continuing desire to stay more connected with our continental neighbours. As such the Scottish Government are now on board with positive developments in the re-opening of this European ferry link.
Initially we had looked at the port of Zeebrugge in Belgium for our receiving port but ran into issues around the availability of adequate berthing space and terminal requirements. Ptarmigan Shipping are in high level talks with a new option at Dunkirk which we think will strengthen the business case and quality of the service for passengers and freight operators alike. Dunkirk has all the necessary infrastructure and border control already in place.
Project Brave – New green jobs, potential for strong investment, easier access to the EU
Once these issues are finalised and we are up and running, the plan is to have three round-trip voyages per week, initially using one RoPax vessel for freight and passengers with the target to increase to two if demand supports its introduction. With easier access for Germany, France and the Netherlands, which are currently our 2nd, 3rd and 4th biggest performers in providing inbound traffic to Scotland, at around 248,000 in 2022, there are also benefits in the other direction for the approximate 158,000 Scots who holiday in Belgium, France, Germany and the Netherlands.
This reinstated ferry service would also be part of the new Greenport’s transformative vision for Rosyth. This would feature a new freight terminal, offshore renewable manufacturing and green power generation capacity, skills development opportunities and new rail connections. With an estimated 7,000 new green jobs and a potential £1bn of investment, the regeneration of this important logistical port should deliver a huge boost both to the local community in terms of employment opportunities, and to the wider economy of the surrounding area.
Working in West Fife, travelling to and from Scotland, trading with the world and being part of the green revolution for a safer climate future – it’s all happening at Dunfermline and West Fife, and Project Brave is just the very beginning.
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