Russell Imrie: Zeebrugge ferry can help turn the tide to cut road freight

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Trade with Europe is vital to the Scottish economy and our goods must get to market by the cheapest, quickest and greenest routes available.

Sea freight is one obvious solution and south-east Scotland possesses a unique resource in the Rosyth to Zeebrugge ferry service, Scotland’s only direct roll-on/roll-off freight ferry link to mainland Europe. Today SEStran, in partnership with West Flanders Development Agency POM, is holding a business to business event in Edinburgh that aims to encourage businesses on both sides of the North Sea to use the service.

SEStran believes that the freight ferry service can significantly reduce road freight and cut traffic mileage and carbon emissions, while offering cost effective and timely transportation of Scottish goods directly to the markets of northern Europe.

It is in the interests of business on both sides of the North Sea – and by definition in the interests of Scotland and our European trading partners – to maximise the use of this resource.

SEStran is currently involved in a range of EU-funded projects that seek to reduce the amount of freight on the nation’s roads by transferring it to rail and sea. Weastflows aims to encourage a shift towards greener freight transport; Foodport focuses on delivering food products via sustainable transport systems; and Lopinod focuses on encouraging wider use of water-borne transport.

The Rosyth to Zeebrugge service is a vital component in these strategies.

The service is a resource that has the potential to cut costs, save road miles and reduce the carbon footprint, while maintaining Scotland’s most direct link with our biggest market. It makes no financial or environmental sense to have Scotland’s roads crowded with heavy goods vehicles burning fuel and causing congestion travelling the length and breadth of the country before being able to access freight ferry services, while a direct freight ferry link is sitting on our doorstep.

It is up to Scottish businesses to seize its opportunities. They must ensure that as customers they are getting the service they want at the right price and then use it.

• Russell Imrie is chair of SEStran.