Shannon claims ‘land grab’ as customs inspections switch to Dublin

Until six weeks ago customs checks on non-EU products routed through Shannon Airport took place in Clare

Business leaders in the midwest have accused the Department of Agriculture of attempting a “land grab” by forcing non-European Union agricultural products to be checked in Dublin, rather than Shannon Airport.

Shannon Chamber of Commerce chief executive Eoin Gavin says this will have a devastating long-term effect on the pharmaceutical industry in the region. Multinational pharmaceutical companies are the backbone of the local economy in the midwest, employing tens of thousands of people in Limerick, Clare and Galway. Until recently, agricultural and customs checks on non-EU products routed through Shannon were undertaken at the Clare airport.

Previously this cargo, which could have entered the EU through Dublin Airport, Frankfurt or – before Brexit – Heathrow, was transported to Shannon Airport in sealed, bonded containers for customs and agricultural inspections, before being delivered to businesses in the midwest.

According to local business leaders, this changed in early September with the department deciding that agricultural inspections should now take place at the first point of entry into the EU, rather than the destination airport.


They claim this has resulted in a cargo “yo-yo” with perishable products being needlessly transported back and forth across the country.

Cargo destined for a midwest pharmaceutical company might now arrive in Dublin Airport before being transported to Shannon Airport in a sealed container for customs checks. According to local business leaders, this cargo is then transported back to Dublin Airport for agricultural inspection – even though there is a fully operational inspection centre in Shannon Airport – before being transported across the country again to its final destination.

Mr Gavin says this is already having a negative impact on businesses in the midwest. He also claims that this is an attempt to run down the Department of Agriculture facility in Shannon Airport and eventually to close it.

“We know what is happening in other EU countries. I’m in the freight business myself; if cargo arrives from outside the EU into Frankfurt Airport for example, it is not inspected in Frankfurt, it is inspected at its final destination,” he said.

“This facility being available in Shannon Airport is one of the key attractions for pharma companies, and especially American companies, to set up in Limerick, Galway and Clare. If this situation is allowed to continue it will have a huge effect on the economy in the west of Ireland.

“We are seeing this as a land grab. We feel that they [the Department of Agriculture] want to close the facilities on the ground in Shannon and this is how they are going about it. If the facilities in Shannon close, it will have a major impact on the midwest. If the business isn’t there in Shannon, because they are forcing the checks to take place in Dublin, they will say, what’s the point in having the facility in Shannon? If that happens it will have a major effect on foreign direct investment coming to this area.

“This is causing massive disruption. I’ve already heard from one company who have asked their suppliers to route their cargo to Dublin Airport instead of Shannon. Their cargo came into Dublin Airport and was sent to Dublin Port for inspection and then sat there for three weeks. These were temperature-control products costing over €1,000 a day.”

Clare Independent TD Michael McNamara said Shannon Airport has been used for agricultural inspections for decades, regardless of where the cargo first entered the EU.

“It is an ‘all roads lead to Rome’ scenario that the Department of Agriculture seems to be pursuing. This is resulting in significant delays in Dublin and businesses don’t like that, especially when these are delays that they have never encountered before,” he said.

“It is also making it more difficult for companies in this side of the country to do business and it is certainly making it more difficult for them to do business through Shannon Airport. Shannon is a key part of the attraction for businesses to locate in the midwest. It’s not just connectivity for business passengers, it is also about being able to transport goods through it as well.

“The first thing we need is clarity over what is happening and why. This system has existed for decades, why has it changed? As far as I am aware, there has been no change to the law, so what has brought about this change in practice?”

Agricultural cargo which arrives directly into Shannon from a non-EU country is still being checked at the airport.

A spokesperson for the Department of Agriculture denied there had been a change in policy and said that any recent change in activity is down to the border control post in Dublin becoming fully operational.

“There have been no changes to procedures around checks of agri-material from non-EU countries at Shannon Airport and nobody is required to send goods from Shannon to Dublin,” they said. “Operators responsible for the import of live animals, regulated plants, farm machinery, products containing animal material and certain types of plant-based foods are required to present these animals and goods for controls at the border control post at the point of first arrival in the European Union.

“Pending the completion of an updated border control point facility at Dublin Airport, a temporary arrangement was put in place that allowed animal products landing at Dublin Airport to be transported to the border control post in Shannon for checks.

“In July this year, operators responsible for the import of animal products requiring checks at a border control post were advised that the updated facility in Dublin Airport was now fully operational and as such products landing at Dublin Airport could now be checked at the border control post in Dublin Airport, in full compliance with EU legislation.”