Despite challenging trading environment experienced during 2016, the total port traffic in Ireland grew by 2% driven predominantly by unitised trade, according to the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO).
Both roll-on/roll-off (RoRo) and lift-on/lift-off (LoLo) traffic grew by 7% in 2016, reaching 1,073,403 freight units and 916,852 TEUs, respectively.
The growth recorded in unitised trade, which is closely correlated with consumer demand, points to increased consumer confidence in the Irish economy in 2016, IMDO said. With over 80% of RoRo traffic moving between the Republic of Ireland and the United Kingdom, the growth in RoRo traffic recorded in 2016 is also a reliable proxy for the performance of trade between both economies, despite economic and political uncertainty in 2016.
“While 2016 was a challenging year for business, the overall increase in port traffic and strong growth in unitised trade demonstrates the resilience of Ireland’s maritime industry in continuing to meet the needs of our growing economy,” Liam Lacey, Director, IMDO, said.
In contrast, total bulk traffic, comprising dry bulk, liquid bulk and break bulk, fell by 5% in 2016 to 28.5 million tonnes. Dry bulk volumes fell by 1% to 15.8 million tonnes and liquid bulk volumes fell by 9% to 11.3 million tonnes in 2016.
Break bulk traffic fell by 5% to 1.4 million tonnes, mainly driven by a 40% decrease in shipment of refuse derived fuel. When these shipments are excluded, break bulk traffic grew by 2% in 2016, with increases recorded in the shipment of commodities.
Furthermore, Ireland’s cruise industry recorded growth in 2016 with an 11% increase in vessel calls in 2016. 274 vessels called to Irish ports in 2016 carrying 442,304 passengers and crew. Dublin Port remained Ireland’s busiest cruise terminal with 109 vessel calls carrying 159,124 passengers and crew, a 7% increase in passenger traffic from 2015.
Although the number of cruise vessel calls to Irish ports increased, IMDO said that passenger numbers between the island of Ireland, Great Britain and continental Europe declined by 2.6% to 4.3 million passengers in 2016.
The largest decline in passenger traffic was recorded between the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain, with a decline in passenger numbers of 5% to 2.2 million recorded in 2016. This decline in sea passenger traffic is in contract to strong growth in air passenger traffic in 2016.
“While the impact of Brexit on the trading environment is not immediately apparent in bilateral trade volumes recorded between Ireland and the UK in the second half of 2016, our maritime industry is influenced by factors such as exchange rate fluctuations that will continue to evolve in 2017,” Lacey added.