Noel Nolan sheds light on Nolan Transport’s expansion and Ireland’s post-Brexit logistics landscape

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Noel Nolan sheds light on Nolan Transport’s expansion and Ireland’s post-Brexit logistics landscape
Photo: Nolan Transport / YouTube

This year sees family-run, Irish logistics operator Nolan Transport celebrate its 60th anniversary. Since being founded by Jimmy Nolan in 1963, the company has grown to point it has a fleet of over 2,700 transportation units, over 1,000 employees and over 23,300 square meters of warehousing space. Nolan Transport also now sports several offices across Europe in countries like the UK, Belgium, Spain and the Netherlands.

The company kicked-started its anniversary year by opening €12m logistics facility in Wexford last month – an investment the company says followed “unprecedented demand for warehousing facilities caused by changes in customer needs and disruption in the supply chain stemming from Brexit and Covid.”

The former of those two disruptive factors soon brought about significant changes to Ireland’s logistics landscape. Direct ferry routes between Ireland and mainland Europe mushroomed, with the likes of Rosslare Port being rejuvenated in the process.

Supply chains have been modified too, with Ireland doing more trade with the rest of the EU and businesses in Northern Ireland sourcing more goods from across the island of Ireland.

All of this has taken place amid an e-commerce boom that’s driven demand for warehousing space and fulfillment services.

Nolan Transport has of course experienced all of these developments first hand, and has taken steps to both alleviate disruption and take advantage of the new post-Brexit climate.

To uncover how Nolan Transport has gone about this, as well as shed light on how Ireland’s post-Brexit landscape is shaping up, trans.iNFO spoke to Noel Nolan, Director of the Warehousing Division of Nolan Transport.

Read on to find out:

  • Why demand for warehousing in Ireland has risen
  • Why Ireland-based international drivers prefer transporting goods to and from mainland Europe rather than the UK
  • How important a role in-house customs expertise has played post-Brexit
  • What Nolan Transport’s new offices in Europe are bringing to the table
  • How the company has maintained its driving workforce amid the highly-publicised driver shortage
  • What infrastructure improvements Nolan Transport would like to see realised in Ireland

Hi Noel, thanks for talking to us at trans.iNFO. Nolan Transport has said that “the market is experiencing record levels of demand and take-up” post-Brexit due to the way supply chains have changed. The increase in demand for direct European mainland – Ireland freight ferry routes is well documented, but presumably there are multiple factors at play here. So how has the logistics picture changed as retailers and consumers adapt to the post-brexit environment, and how is Nolan Transport itself evolving in response to this?

The customer now shops at home – this has changed and disrupted the supply chain and the customer, particularly in the case of fast-moving consumer goods and food, which have grown accustomed to a longer lead time for their goods exiting the UK due to customs.

Time sensitivity and the delivery of goods now plays a more important role. When servicing this demand, suppliers are seeking to warehouse goods so they can be delivered on time and on demand.

Coming off Brexit, the ferry companies set up direct routes between Ireland and European ports. This means the UK landbridge is no longer as important when transiting to and from Europe.

Seeing this, Nolan Transport has grown its services into Europe. We’ve partnered with key shipping companies so it can service more of the European market, and opened more European offices. We’ve now got offices in the Netherlands, France and Spain, as well as 2 new offices we’ve opened in Belgium this year. These are in addition to Nolan Transport’s Irish and UK bases.

The aforementioned revolution in ferry routes has seemingly changed the nature of daily work for Ireland-based lorry drivers working on international routes. From the feedback you are receiving, how are the drivers adapting to the change?

Industry is changing to more roll on/roll off services, though some loads do continue to be accompanied on ferry routes.

We are operating more loads unaccompanied on these routes and there is an industry change back to port-based local drivers in each country, who take the goods from the port to the customer and back to the port.

International truck drivers by nature have always taken ferries as part of their work to and from Europe. Now there are just more ferries operating on these routes offering services. The drivers prefer working in Europe as there are no customs delays with their loads when they don’t enter the UK.

How important has customs expertise been for Nolan Transport and other logistics companies post-Brexit? How much of a competitive advantage is it to have strong competencies in this area at this moment in time?

The expertise in Nolan Transport’s customs team is vital to keep things moving. It’s what allows us to offer our customers all of the services they require when transporting goods.

The UK is still a large market, and because we can offer customers transport, customs, warehousing and other transport services, we see this as a competitive advantage as all of these services are completed in-house. This way we become a one-stop-shop for our customers needs.

In addition, we’ve invested in secure locations and premises throughout Ireland, the UK and mainland Europe. This gives us the ability to safeguard all of our customers goods, and means we can give our customers assurances for the safeguarding of their product while in transit. This is a live issue facing logistics companies today.

In addition, because of our expansion, we can offer all of our supply chain and warehousing services to all of our customers, regardless of whether they are based in Ireland, the UK or mainland Europe.

You recently opened a new office in the Netherlands. How will this contribute to your operations as a whole?  

This location was targeted to avail of shipping routes and expand our offering to our customers.

The office places us in a position to strategically develop our intra-European network to compliment our Europe, UK and Ireland business and offer the customer more services.

Moreover, in 2023, we are opening another office in Rotterdam. It will be offering strongly-demanded container services from Europe to Ireland and the UK.

Again, this allows us to sell transport, warehousing, customs or other transport needs to both new and existing customers.

The fact you have plans to build 5 warehouses indicates confidence that the demand for space will continue to grow in Ireland. What is the most prominent element fueling this demand?

Due to the disruption in the supply chain caused by Brexit, covid, and the war in Ukraine, customers want to hold buffer stock to mitigate external factors.

As I referred to earlier, customers shop from home, so warehousing is now the new high street for fulfilling peoples’ orders.

We all use our phone to order directly from the internet rather than go to the shop, and we believe we can help fulfill some of the growth in this business.

New facilities naturally need to be staffed, and given the skills shortages some sectors across Europe are experiencing, not to mention the severe shortage of accommodation in Ireland, to what extent are you concerned about the scale of the recruitment challenge you may face? 

Nolan Transport have a high rate of staff retention  – many staff have stayed with us for years.

While the market is tight for new staff as a whole, we are a company that people want to work for, and are not experiencing difficulty in staffing our facilities.

At the same time, we did experience some difficulties at the start of driver shortage. However, we increased wages across the driver workforce to mitigate this being a problem going forward.

We also feel that as a company with future growth plans, people will want to stay and others will be keen to join the team.

You have referred to the possibility of linking the new warehouse via rail. What feasible options are available with regards to this? 

It is very conceptual at the moment, but the railway passes through the back of the site. We believe if the government got behind us it could work. We want the government to partner with us to provide rail infrastructure so we can grow both Wexford and Ireland.

You are of course investing in infrastructure as a company. However, with regards to public infrastructure, what would you like to see the government invest more in from a logistics perspective? 

The government has seen the effect of investing in infrastructure. The completion of the new Ross bypass and its connection of the road from Rosslare to Waterford has been a great success. More of this infrastructure is essential.

Rosslare and Cork port are now connected by motorway. Further road connections and the completion of the final part of the motorway from Dublin to Rosslare is necessary.

Besides this, investment in the rail freight network in Ireland and further facilities at the Port of Rosslare would be welcome.

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