Freight News, Sea

Dublin trade down in first quarter

[ April 19, 2021   //   ]

Dublin Port Company reported volumes down by 15.2% to 7.8 million gross tonnes in the first quarter 2021 compared with the same period in 2020.

Imports from January to March fell by 14.4% to 4.7 million gross tonnes and exports declined by 16.6% to 3.1 million gross tonnes.

Trailers and containers combined fell by 11.7% to 318,000 units including a 20.1% fall in ro ro to 204,000 units, partly offset by an increase in lo lo of 9.0% to 114,000 units.

While overall Ro-Ro volumes were down by 20.1% to 204,000 units, trends were very different on Irish Sea routes to GB compared to direct routes to Continental Europe:

However, ro-ro to and from ports in France, Belgium and the Netherlands increased by +25.5% to 52,000 units while that to and from GB ports fell by 29.0% to 152,000 units.

Unitised trade with GB ports declined by 29.2% to 160,000 units while that with ports in the EU (and elsewhere) increased by +17.9% to 158,000 units.

Imports of new trade vehicles declined by 12.6% to 27,000 units.

Chief executive, Eamonn O’Reilly, said: “The first quarter of 2021 was very weak with overall cargo volumes back by 15.2% compared to the first quarter of 2020. This is mainly because of Brexit. However, it is too early yet to say what the long-term effects of Brexit will be and whether the declines we have seen so far in 2021 will persist at the same level for the rest of the year.

“With two ferry lines (Irish Ferries and P&O) now operating services both from Dublin Port to GB and across the English Channel from Dover to Calais, we are optimistic that the landbridge will re-establish itself as a fast and cost effective option for the movement of time sensitive goods to and from Continental Europe in the months ahead.

“The dislocation of a lot of volume to ports in Northern Ireland is, however, worrying. Back in 1990, before the Single European Market was established, more than a third of ro-ro trade chose services to and from Northern Irish ports rather than use services in and out of Dublin Port. We won’t get a proper sense until later in the year as to how much of the 29% decline we have seen in GB ro-ro trade is due to the new border regimes and whether this dislocation will be a permanent feature for the years ahead or not.”

“The only positive thing we are seeing in the figures for the first quarter is the growth of 18% in ro-ro and lo-lo volumes on direct services with Continental Europe. This confirms that the investment decisions we have been taking in recent years under Masterplan 2040 were correct. It also shows the responsiveness of the shipping market to rapidly provide the capacity needed for the changes in demand patterns which Brexit has caused.

“If we do see a sustained step change downwards in volumes on routes to GB because of Brexit, I expect that the pivoting of trade from GB to Continental Europe will, in time, re-establish the long-term growth trends we have seen in Dublin Port for many decades.”