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Dublin Port Volumes Down -15% in Q1 2021, Unitised Trade with GB Down -29% but Trade with EU Up +18%

19th April 2021
There was a ‑15.2% decline to 7.8 million gross tonnes in Dublin Port’s volumes for the first three months of 2021 compared to same period in 2020
There was a ‑15.2% decline to 7.8 million gross tonnes in Dublin Port’s volumes for the first three months of 2021 compared to same period in 2020

Dublin Port Company has today reported trading figures for the first quarter of 2021.

Following a strong final quarter in 2020 (when volumes grew by +7.8% in the run-up to Brexit), there was a ‑15.2% decline to 7.8 million gross tonnes in Dublin Port’s volumes for the first three months of 2021 compared to 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.

Unitised trade (Ro-Ro and Lo-Lo) accounted for 82% of all cargo volumes in the quarter and the number of trailers and containers combined fell by ‑11.7% to 318,000 units. Within this, there was a very large decline of ‑20.1% in Ro‑Ro to 204,000 units. This was partly offset by an increase in Lo‑Lo of 9.0% to 114,000 units (equivalent to 206,000 TEU).

Ro-Ro 

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:

  • Ro-Ro to and from ports in France, Belgium and the Netherlands increased by +25.5% to 52,000 units.
  • Ro-Ro to and from GB ports fell by ‑29.0% to 152,000 units.

Ro Ro UnitsDublin Port Ro-Ro Units

Dublin Port Ro-Ro and Lo-Lo Units combined

For the 318,000 units of Ro-Ro and Lo-Lo combined, volumes are now split 50 / 50 between ports in GB and ports in Continental Europe and beyond:

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

Elsewhere in Dublin Port’s unitised trade, imports of new trade vehicles declined by ‑12.6% to 27,000 units.

Due to continuing reduced transport demand in the economy, Bulk Liquid imports of petroleum products were back by ‑23.4% to 0.9 million tonnes.

Bulk Solids (including agri‑feed products, ore concentrates and cement products) finished the quarter +9.9% ahead at 0.5m tonnes.

Passenger & tourism volumes

Outside of the cargo side of Dublin Port’s business, the pandemic continued to suppress passenger and tourism volumes. Passenger numbers on ferries (including HGV drivers) declined by ‑63.2% to 83,000 while tourist vehicles declined by ‑74.3% to 17,000.

Commenting on the Q1 2021 figures, Dublin Port’s 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.”

Published in Dublin Port
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About Dublin Port 

Dublin Port is Ireland’s largest and busiest port with approximately 17,000 vessel movements per year. As well as being the country’s largest port, Dublin Port has the highest rate of growth and, in the seven years to 2019, total cargo volumes grew by 36.1%.

The vision of Dublin Port Company is to have the required capacity to service the needs of its customers and the wider economy safely, efficiently and sustainably. Dublin Port will integrate with the City by enhancing the natural and built environments. The Port is being developed in line with Masterplan 2040.

Dublin Port Company is currently investing about €277 million on its Alexandra Basin Redevelopment (ABR), which is due to be complete by 2021. The redevelopment will improve the port's capacity for large ships by deepening and lengthening 3km of its 7km of berths. The ABR is part of a €1bn capital programme up to 2028, which will also include initial work on the Dublin Port’s MP2 Project - a major capital development project proposal for works within the existing port lands in the northeastern part of the port.

Dublin Port has also recently secured planning approval for the development of the next phase of its inland port near Dublin Airport. The latest stage of the inland port will include a site with the capacity to store more than 2,000 shipping containers and infrastructures such as an ESB substation, an office building and gantry crane.

Dublin Port Company recently submitted a planning application for a €320 million project that aims to provide significant additional capacity at the facility within the port in order to cope with increases in trade up to 2040. The scheme will see a new roll-on/roll-off jetty built to handle ferries of up to 240 metres in length, as well as the redevelopment of an oil berth into a deep-water container berth.

Dublin Port FAQ

Dublin was little more than a monastic settlement until the Norse invasion in the 8th and 9th centuries when they selected the Liffey Estuary as their point of entry to the country as it provided relatively easy access to the central plains of Ireland. Trading with England and Europe followed which required port facilities, so the development of Dublin Port is inextricably linked to the development of Dublin City, so it is fair to say the origins of the Port go back over one thousand years. As a result, the modern organisation Dublin Port has a long and remarkable history, dating back over 300 years from 1707.

The original Port of Dublin was situated upriver, a few miles from its current location near the modern Civic Offices at Wood Quay and close to Christchurch Cathedral. The Port remained close to that area until the new Custom House opened in the 1790s. In medieval times Dublin shipped cattle hides to Britain and the continent, and the returning ships carried wine, pottery and other goods.

510 acres. The modern Dublin Port is located either side of the River Liffey, out to its mouth. On the north side of the river, the central part (205 hectares or 510 acres) of the Port lies at the end of East Wall and North Wall, from Alexandra Quay.

Dublin Port Company is a State-owned commercial company responsible for operating and developing Dublin Port.

Dublin Port Company is a self-financing, and profitable private limited company wholly-owned by the State, whose business is to manage Dublin Port, Ireland's premier Port. Established as a corporate entity in 1997, Dublin Port Company is responsible for the management, control, operation and development of the Port.

Captain William Bligh (of Mutiny of the Bounty fame) was a visitor to Dublin in 1800, and his visit to the capital had a lasting effect on the Port. Bligh's study of the currents in Dublin Bay provided the basis for the construction of the North Wall. This undertaking led to the growth of Bull Island to its present size.

Yes. Dublin Port is the largest freight and passenger port in Ireland. It handles almost 50% of all trade in the Republic of Ireland.

All cargo handling activities being carried out by private sector companies operating in intensely competitive markets within the Port. Dublin Port Company provides world-class facilities, services, accommodation and lands in the harbour for ships, goods and passengers.

Eamonn O'Reilly is the Dublin Port Chief Executive.

Capt. Michael McKenna is the Dublin Port Harbour Master

In 2019, 1,949,229 people came through the Port.

In 2019, there were 158 cruise liner visits.

In 2019, 9.4 million gross tonnes of exports were handled by Dublin Port.

In 2019, there were 7,898 ship arrivals.

In 2019, there was a gross tonnage of 38.1 million.

In 2019, there were 559,506 tourist vehicles.

There were 98,897 lorries in 2019

Boats can navigate the River Liffey into Dublin by using the navigational guidelines. Find the guidelines on this page here.

VHF channel 12. Commercial vessels using Dublin Port or Dun Laoghaire Port typically have a qualified pilot or certified master with proven local knowledge on board. They "listen out" on VHF channel 12 when in Dublin Port's jurisdiction.

A Dublin Bay webcam showing the south of the Bay at Dun Laoghaire and a distant view of Dublin Port Shipping is here
Dublin Port is creating a distributed museum on its lands in Dublin City.
 A Liffey Tolka Project cycle and pedestrian way is the key to link the elements of this distributed museum together.  The distributed museum starts at the Diving Bell and, over the course of 6.3km, will give Dubliners a real sense of the City, the Port and the Bay.  For visitors, it will be a unique eye-opening stroll and vista through and alongside one of Europe’s busiest ports:  Diving Bell along Sir John Rogerson’s Quay over the Samuel Beckett Bridge, past the Scherzer Bridge and down the North Wall Quay campshire to Berth 18 - 1.2 km.   Liffey Tolka Project - Tree-lined pedestrian and cycle route between the River Liffey and the Tolka Estuary - 1.4 km with a 300-metre spur along Alexandra Road to The Pumphouse (to be completed by Q1 2021) and another 200 metres to The Flour Mill.   Tolka Estuary Greenway - Construction of Phase 1 (1.9 km) starts in December 2020 and will be completed by Spring 2022.  Phase 2 (1.3 km) will be delivered within the following five years.  The Pumphouse is a heritage zone being created as part of the Alexandra Basin Redevelopment Project.  The first phase of 1.6 acres will be completed in early 2021 and will include historical port equipment and buildings and a large open space for exhibitions and performances.  It will be expanded in a subsequent phase to incorporate the Victorian Graving Dock No. 1 which will be excavated and revealed. 
 The largest component of the distributed museum will be The Flour Mill.  This involves the redevelopment of the former Odlums Flour Mill on Alexandra Road based on a masterplan completed by Grafton Architects to provide a mix of port operational uses, a National Maritime Archive, two 300 seat performance venues, working and studio spaces for artists and exhibition spaces.   The Flour Mill will be developed in stages over the remaining twenty years of Masterplan 2040 alongside major port infrastructure projects.

Source: Dublin Port Company ©Afloat 2020. 

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