More money needed to help Holyhead ferry operators, says council leader
More financial support is needed to keep Holyhead Port’s ferry operators going during the Coronavirus pandemic, it has been claimed.
While some freight services continue between Wales and Ireland, the slashing of passenger services has led to calls for UK Government cash to bridge the gap between a drop in income and running costs of maintaining such an important strategic international transport and freight route between Dublin and Holyhead.
As a result, the leader of Anglesey Council has written to transport secretary Grant Shapps and Secretary of State for Wales Simon Hart to highlight her concerns on how it could affect the 400 workers based at the port.
Cllr Llinos Medi described the impact of coronavirus on the day-to-day operations of both Holyhead Port’s ferry operators – Stena Line and Irish Ferries – as “severe” with both having already curtailed services but remaining committed to maintaining transport of critical freight.
“You will be acutely aware of the scale and breadth of the Covid-19 emergency and how it has impacted on every business sector and industry,” she wrote.
‘Whilst we acknowledge the emergency support measures announced over recent weeks by both UK and Welsh Governments, we are concerned that the needs of Holyhead Port are not being met.
“As the UK’s second busiest roll on / roll off port, Holyhead’s importance to Wales and the UK cannot be underestimated; with in excess of a million vehicle movements a year.
“Holyhead Port also sustains more than 400 jobs and many hundreds more via its supply chain.
“The Irish Government has already provided temporary financial support measures for its strategic maritime connections.”
Cllr Medi asked Mr Shapps to give the matter “urgent consideration” and hopes that a “support mechanism” can be agreed soon to help Holyhead Port through these unprecedented times.
The island’s MP, Virginia Crosbie, said: “The Government’s overriding priority is to keep our ports and freight routes open, and securing the future of Holyhead port and shipping operators will protect many thousands of people whose livelihoods depend on it.
“Kelly Tolhurst, Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department for Transport, has assured me personally the Government has maintained constant contact with port operators and shipping companies in Holyhead in order to protect the maritime sector and keep our ports and freight lines open.
“The Government has announced an unprecedented £330bn package of measures including business interruption loans for those requiring access to funding.
“I will continue to do everything in my power to support the port and shipping operators here in Holyhead. We must protect this vitally important trading hub for its future beyond coronavirus.”
Assembly member Rhun ap Iorwerth added: “The port of Holyhead is of vital importance to our local economy, and indeed to the wider Welsh and UK economy.
“Having spoken with Stena and representatives of the workforce, I know how hard ferry operations have been hit hard by the coronavirus crisis, and now that the impact of the sharp drop in trade is becoming clearer still, we need urgent assurances that support will be given to get us through these stormy waters.”
In response, a Department for Transport spokesperson said: “We recognise how challenging this period is for the transport sector and encourage all firms to make use of the further changes to business support, announced earlier this month by the Chancellor, helping make funds easier to access for more companies.
“We’re committed to working with the devolved administrations and industry leaders, to offer the support they need and help provide certainty for workers.
“We will continue to directly engage maritime companies and associations to tackle these challenges.”
By Gareth Williams – Local Democracy Reporter
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