As the UK prepares to leave the European Union, the Irish port of Rosslare hopes Brexit will be good for it as increasing numbers of hauliers seek to avoid the UK land bridge.
That is because of fears about traffic delays at Holyhead in Wales and Dover in Kent.
Two hours before dawn it is dark at Rosslare port in County Wexford, as a roll-on roll-off ferry arrives from Wales to dock.
First light brings more ships; some from Wales, others from France and twice weekly from Bilbao in Spain.
The port is busy as the trucks leave with their cargoes for destinations all over Ireland.
But the hope is that because of Brexit and increased paper work it will get even busier.
The port’s manager, Glenn Carr, believes it is inevitable there will be huge delays and that will be bad news for those trying to get their products to the EU’s markets just in time.
“Rosslare Europort now will offer the highest number of direct roll-on roll-off services to and from Ireland to the continent,” he adds.
“We are growing from six services today to up to 30 services to and from the continent from January 2021.”
While the UK was part of the EU’s customs union and single market it was quicker for hauliers to get their trucks to the European mainland by using the land bridge – a ferry from Ireland to GB and then a drive through GB to an English port before sailing on to the European mainland.
But that certainty can no longer be taken for granted and there are genuine fears of massive delays and tailbacks.
Irish exporting companies are increasingly looking to direct sailings to the single market.
There are already ferry sailings from Rosslare to Cherbourg, but from early January a Danish company, DFDS, is providing regular sailing to Dunkirk in France, near the Belgian border, taking just under 24 hours.
That means the companies will have continued access to the single market of about 450m people with no Brexit-type paper work.
Aidan Coffey, the manager of DFDS at Rosslare, says there is “a shift changing to a direct market where we’re part of a single market, a single currency and a customs union – so, really it’s kind of a no-brainer”.
But the local independent TD (MP) Verona Murphy believes the port needs a €200m (£181.6m) upgrade to take full advantage of the opportunities Brexit provides.
She is a former haulier with 30 years’ experience and is a past president of the Irish Road Haulage Association.
“Rosslare currently is a roll-on roll-off port, it takes trucks, drivers and trailers,” she says.
“What we need is to update to a load-on load-off container-type port.
“We need crane infrastructure to do that.
“It also needs a significant amount of land to be retained and reclaimed.”
The Irish government has said it will invest more in ports like Rosslare as businesses seek certainty amidst the confusion caused by Brexit.
The coming months may change Rosslare not just for years, but for decades to come.