New post-Brexit infrastructure for checks at Larne Harbour is expected to be in place by September 2021.
A temporary facility has been made available by the Department of Agriculture, Environment and Rural Affairs (DAERA) at Redlands Road until this provision is constructed.
The new premises to replace the current DAERA border inspection point at have been designed for the inspection of food and live animals and will include pens and an unloading area for horses when they arrive from other parts of the United Kingdom.
Last month, the council was told that the number of environmental health officers to be employed at Larne port after Brexit is set to be doubled.
Twelve new environmental health officers employed by Mid and East Antrim Borough Council are based at the Jobs and Benefits Office at Pound Street temporarily.
Costs are covered by the Food Standards Agency.
The team is now working “24/7, in a 365 role on 12-hour shifts” carrying out documentation checks initially on goods moving into Northern Ireland from Great Britain. These have been taking place since the first ship docked at Larne Harbour at 8am on January 1.
Speaking at a remote meeting of Mid and East Antrim Borough Council earlier this week, Chief Executive Anne Donaghy told members: “There were a few delays on lorries at Larne Port to do with the customs side and paperwork not being accurate. It is something we have to continue to monitor. I would have no concerns at this stage.”
Larne Lough Ulster Unionist Councillor Keith Turner noted that there have been so many contradictions and 60 new pieces of guidances since the council first received the Protocol in August.
He suggested that the local authority organises a webinar to assist businesses.
“I feel it is at the minute, the visually impaired is leading the visually impaired and everybody trying to second guess what the Protocol actually means.”
Bannside TUV Councillor Timothy Gaston commented: “I have said a number of months ago, the Northern Ireland Protocol is bad for Unionism, bad for Northern Ireland and certainly we are seeing the outworkings of that.
“There are so many unanswered questions and that’s what Mr Poots and the Irish Sea border has delivered for unionism in Northern Ireland.”
Larne Lough Alliance Councillor Robert Logan commented: “It is no wonder many people are concerned about the effects on their lives brought about by the UK’s exit from the EU and when the referendum result was based on a tissue of lies, wishful thinking, false promises and facile arguments, it is little wonder people are concerned.”
He reported that the Port of Larne has issued a certificate with the intention of building “substantial infrastructure” to cope with the demands of the Protocol.
Coast Road Sinn Fein Councillor James McKeown said it was worth noting the silence from some of the Unionist parties in the chamber, particularly the DUP.
“So much for supporting Boris Johnson and his Conservative government. Also thank them for helping to further remove the border from this country. I think they should take great pride in what they have done.”
Ballymena SDLP Councillor Eugene Reid said: “I’m a Nationalist and a very proud one. I’m not sure what Cllr Gaston is referring to when he talks about a pan-Nationalist front. I’m not sure what he is taking about when he refers to us being to blame for the position we are in.
“I’m a very proud Nationalist and I also campaigned very strongly for remain not for no deal and not for the situation we find ourselves in. This should not be laid at the feet of any Nationalist party in any way, shape or form.”
DUP Councillor Andrew Clarke went on to ask about the specifics of the checks that are carried out and if these can be “speeded up”.
He was told that local government has a “limited role in the speed of the checks” but indicated that these must be carried out “swiftly”.
The Chief Executive indicated that the council’s instruction is to carry out documentation checks but physical checks may have to be carried out in the future.
She said that further webinars will be arranged for businesses.