A NEW direct shipping route between Poole and Morocco is to bring fresh produce to the UK quicker by avoiding Brexit-related hold-ups.

The Port of Poole says the new link to Tangier will help importers and exporters get around the delays caused by having to send goods via European Union countries.

The route has been established by United Seaways and has been in planning for more than two years, the port said.

It will run once a week and cut journey times on Moroccan goods to fewer than three days, compared with more than six days via the current road routes. It will also cut the environmental impact of the trade.

The current route involves two ferry crossings – between Morocco and Spain and between Northern Europe and the UK – necessitating paperwork hold-ups since Britain’s departure from the EU.

Captain Brian Murphy, marine and port director at Poole Harbour Commissioners, said: “We are very excited to be hosting United Seaways’ brand-new roll-on-roll-off ferry service. It will reduce the time taken for goods to arrive by half and will see significant environmental benefits by reducing road freight.

“This is an exciting opportunity for UK, Moroccan and African importers and exporters, who are looking to develop existing and establish new business relationships. We will work closely with United Seaways to ensure this service is a huge success.

“With our high customer satisfaction levels, skilled workforce and ample operational space, the Port of Poole is ideally set up to receive both accompanied and unaccompanied freight.

“To avoid unnecessary disruptions, we work closely with UK Border Control, Port Health, and the Animal and Plant Health Agency to ensure that all the necessary checks are carried out as efficiently as possible right here on the port estate.

“We are the ‘can-do’ port and look forward to supporting the future growth of the UK import and export market.”

Zeyd Fassi Fehri, managing director of United Seaways, said: “Our aim is to support businesses with post-Brexit, supply chain challenges and opportunities. This service will create a sustainable and environmental alternative when launched in the coming months. The speed and efficiency of the vessel ensures a longer shelf life for fresh products whilst reducing road congestion, tolls and additional import procedures that have arisen since Brexit.”

Nigel Jenney, chief executive of the Fresh Produce Consortium, said: “Any solution that makes imports more effective, or eases trading with alternative countries, may well be a great opportunity for helping the UK source fresh produce from around the world.

“I anticipate a strong demand for this new direct roro service. The route offers a rapid service and avoids the additional tariff complications of trading via the EU since the beginning of the year.

“At this challenging time, it's a very welcome alternative to the increasing complexity of trading with Europe.”