Irish truckers stranded at French port

Up to 20 Irish truck drivers have been stranded in Cherbourg for four days after French fishermen angry at high fuel costs blockaded the port.

It is one of a number hit by the nationwide protest which has seen the trucks, loaded with meat, vegetables and other produce, unable to leave.

Freight operator Derek Lenehan, who has a lorry with €40,000 worth of potatoes bound for Dublin stuck at the port, said he is concerned they will perish if left any longer.

“We loaded them (potatoes) last Wednesday in Italy to get to the ship on Friday evening.

“So the driver got to Cherbourg with a bit of time on Thursday, but as this thing developed on Friday he was blocked into the port by protestors by road and then the protestors have also disabled the ships in that port.

“So we can neither drive out of the port to get to another port or get any boats in that port.

“Somebody is going to have to pay for these potatoes if they are not fit for use.”

Mr Lenehan said the truck was in a parking area within the port and that the driver was free to leave, but on foot only.

Ferry company Celtic Link transported a number of trucks from Rosslare to Cherbourg last Thursday.

Spokesman Paul Tyrell said they were reassured the freight being brought into France would be allowed to leave the port, but when they arrived only cars and livestock units were permitted through.

“When the ship was leaving we weren’t allowed to load the cargo that was in the port destined for Ireland,” he said.

“They refused to let them board the ship. This is nonsensical.”

French President Nicolas Sarkozy announced a €310m aid package to fishermen after several ports were blockaded in November.

But the fishermen now say the aid is not enough to cope with the sharp increase in the price of diesel.

The Irish Road Haulage Association (IRHA) is urging the Department of Transport to pressure the French government into resolving the bitter row.

“There’s about 20 vehicles involved in it... We’re making contact with senior people in the Department of Transport to try and get the French to come up with some solution and try and get them (trucks) away.”

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