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Hauliers warn fuel hike could force rise in prices

By Michelle Weir

Local hauliers have sounded a warning that rising fuel prices will be passed on to customers amid fears of even more increases this summer.

Concerns were voiced after international oil prices hit their highest rate since 2014 this week.

James Allen, managing director, of Allen Logistics (NI) Ltd in Moira, said: "Any increase in oil prices has a direct and unavoidable impact on the cost of fuel prices within the haulage industry.

"With fuel prices increasing we have two options - either carry the cost or pass it on.

"With profit margins within our industry, this leaves the only option but to pass it on to our customers who may in turn pass this additional cost onto the end users/consumers.

"This is not a decision that will be taken lightly, but is one which we must address enabling us to continue to provide and maintain our services."

Alan Blair of Blair International said that fuel and shipping accounts for 60% of the Ballymena company's costs.

"There is a fuel surcharge with shipping companies and there will be surcharge increase. This will have a huge impact on our business," he said.

Seamus Leheney, policy manager Northern Ireland of the Freight Transport Association (FTA), said its members were feeling the impact as diesel prices rose in tandem with petrol.

"They are all feeling the effects and more is still to impact as many in transport buy their fuel in bulk on agreed rates, hence the increase at the next renewal will hit them hard," Mr Leheney added.

International oil prices hit their highest level during the week on the back of prolonged supply cut arrangements, chaos in Venezuela, wars in Yemen and Syria, and the possible reintroduction of major sanctions by the US on Iran.

These factors drove Brent crude oil prices up to $80 (£59.96) a barrel and there are fears that it could reach $100.

Meanwhile, budget airline Ryanair fears that rising oil prices could "take the gloss off" its performance over the next 12 months.

The carrier, which operates from Belfast International and City of Derry Airports, has reported a solid increase in this year's performance.

Ryanair boss Michael O'Leary said: "We are pleased to report a 10% increase in profits, with an unchanged net margin of 20%, despite a 3% cut in air fares, during a year of over-capacity in Europe, leading to a weaker fare environment, rising fuel prices, and the recovery from our September 2017 rostering management failure."

The chief executive also struck a cautious tone over the airline's prospects for the coming financial year, pointing to higher oil prices and Brexit. Ryanair expects unit costs over the next year to rise by 9%.

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