Air and sea ports in NI need ‘urgent help’

Air and sea ports need urgent help to endure the coronavirus crisis, Northern Ireland’s Stormont ministers said.

They asked Transport Secretary Grant Shapps to introduce special measures.

Commercial air travel has dwindled with the demise of Flybe and easyJet’s decision to ground its entire fleet.

Freight operators using ferries have expressed mounting concern about the viability of services when there are fewer return loads available.

Finance Minister Conor Murphy said: “It was a productive phone call with Grant Shapps and Secretary of State, Brandon Lewis.

“I hope the Transport Secretary can quickly deliver the support needed to maintain business links in the short-term and ensure our airport links remain in place now and when we enter the economic recovery stage.”

Flybe goes into administration
Economy Minister, Diane Dodds impressed upon the British Government the essential role of Northern Ireland’s three airports during this crisis (Andrew Matthews/PA)

Economy Minister Diane Dodds impressed upon them the essential role of Northern Ireland’s three airports, not only during this crisis, but also when they emerged from it.

She added: “Strong air connectivity with Great Britain has never been more vital for our economy and, therefore, it remains a top priority for me.”

Infrastructure Minister Nichola Mallon said the economic impact was being acutely felt.

She said: “Maintaining connectivity is vitally important and I will continue to work with Executive colleagues engaging with the representatives of ports and airports to ensure that no effort will be spared to ensure that happens.”

She added: “I will continue to press for critical support to protect our economy and most importantly our community at this difficult time.”

Only two commercial flights are operating between Northern Ireland and London.

The Freight Transport Association has stressed the “economic importance” of Belfast International Airport as an air freight hub.

It brings in post, parcels and other essential goods.

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