STENA Line has reduced sailings from Fishguard Harbour this week following a post- Brexit reduction in freight of around 70 percent and coronavirus travel restrictions.

The company said yesterday (Thursday) that the volume of freight travelling on the Fishguard to Rosslare route is down around 70 percent on this time last year.

Today (Friday) it announced that four round trip sailings would be cancelled between today and Tuesday due to 'the travel ban in Ireland and the very low demand currently for freight'.

It said that some of the freight reduction was due to the amount of stockpiling that happened before Christmas. Passenger numbers have also been impacted by the travel restrictions imposed due to coronavirus.

A complete travel ban on all non-essential journeys into Ireland is due to relax on Saturday, but anyone travelling to Ireland for a specific reason will need to test negative for Covid-19 or face heavy financial penalties.

Stena added that freight volumes are slowly starting to creep back up and that it was keeping a close eye on the figures..

It is currently reviewing schedules and may reduce some crossings on a temporary basis.

"Our freight volumes are currently down approximately 70% on the same time last year, which is also the position at Holyhead Port," said a spokesperson for the company.

"To a certain degree this has been expected given the volume of stock piling which occurred prior to Christmas.

"Freight volumes have slowly started to return this week and we are monitoring developments closely.

"In addition to the fall off in freight volumes, with the Irish Government imposing virtually a complete travel ban resulting in almost no passengers travelling, we are currently reviewing our sailings and schedules and may reduce some sailings on a temporary basis during this unprecedented time."

The announcement came in the same week that Fishguard county councillor, Pat Davies, voiced her fears over the future of Fishguard Harbour.

"There is real concern in our community and I have real concerns about the future of Fishguard Harbour," she said on Tuesday.

"150 people are employed in the harbour; 130 on the ferry and there are 20 harbour staff. These are 150 good jobs that we can't afford to lose in this community."

Cllr Davies added that there were now five ferries going directly from Dunkirk to Rosslare.

"These ferries have been quite busy," she said at a meeting of Fishguard and Goodwick Town Council.

"I think you all agree with me the future of Fishguard Harbour looks pretty perilous."

She urged the town council to write to MP Stephen Crabb, SM Paul Davies and Welsh secretary Simon Hart, from whom she said the 'silence had been deafening' to ask them their concerns and to express the council's concerns.

"People have got to wake up and smell the coffee and think about the future of Fishguard Harbour and think about those good well-paid jobs," she said.

"We can't afford to lose them. We can't sustain the community solely on tourism, these are low-paid seasonal jobs that can't sustain the families that we have in Fishguard. We've got to look to the future and try to keep what we have got."

Mid and West Wales MS, Eluned Morgan also voiced concerns. She met with local management of Stena Line and Irish Ferries before Christmas.

"January is quieter time for ferry services but as we know, commercial freight sustains these important links all year round," said Eluned.

"This is the first time that an operator like Stena has admitted the very real impacts of Brexit has forced them to cut services.

"Huge quantities of trade is now bypassing Fishguard and Pembroke because it is easier to meet deadlines by avoiding Britain altogether. The Tories hailed Brexit as a way of cutting red tape, instead it has created barriers, more paperwork and economic uncertainty.

"Regardless of the views of some Brexiteers, our ports are important gateways to Europe. For Wales, Pembrokeshire must remain a gateway to Europe for trade, tourism and all of the jobs linked to these ports."

Jackie Jones, Labour MS candidate for Preseli Pembrokeshire, who was also one of the last members of the European Parliament added:

"This is a very disappointing announcement and one that does not need to be repeated. Daily ferry services have operated between Fishguard and Rosslare for the last 115 years, through pandemics, wars and great economic uncertainty.

"We must not allow Brexit to take this important transport link which has put Fishguard on the map to disappear."

Irish Ferries has been contacted but declined to comment on the impact of Brexit and the travel ban at Pembroke Port.