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Irish Maritime Transport Economist Report Reveals One of the Most Challenging Years In Decades

10th June 2021
The year 2020 says the IMDO was one of the most challenging years that faced the Irish maritime industry for many decades. The year 2020 says the IMDO was one of the most challenging years that faced the Irish maritime industry for many decades. Credit: IMDO

The Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) has announced the publication of the 18th edition of the Irish Maritime Transport Economist.

In this edition, we report on 2020, one of the most challenging years that the Irish maritime industry has faced for many decades.

The outbreak of COVID-19 in Q1 had a dramatic and negative effect on freight and passenger volumes. Public health concerns necessitated the imposition of restrictions on the movement of people, internationally and domestically.

In the early months of the pandemic, passenger volumes fell by over 90%, while RoRo freight volumes fell by over 25%. Although other shipping market segments were not immune to the suppressive economic effects of the public health restrictions, their impacts were not as deep or as lasting as those experienced in the RoRo freight and passenger segments.

The second half of 2020 stands in marked contrast to the first half, from a RoRo and LoLo freight perspective. The losses of the first half of the year were recovered, as initial public health restrictions were eased and most retail activity recommenced in Q3.

Moving through Q4, combined RoRo and LoLo freight volumes set a new record of 1,324 points on the IMDO’s iShip Index for unitised trade. Unitised volumes were bolstered by the desire of traders to create stockpiles in advance of the year-end Brexit deadline. RoRo and LoLo volumes in Q4 were sufficient to make good earlier losses and bring overall unitised throughput for the year to just 1% below 2019 levels.

The restrictions on international travel introduced in Q1 remained in place, resulting in passenger volumes falling by 73% for the year. Bulk trades were also negatively affected by lockdown measures. Market demand for bulk materials, particularly in the construction and transport sectors, fell significantly.

The COVID-19 pandemic and preparations for Brexit placed unprecedented pressure on the maritime industry in 2020.  The response of the industry to the COVID-19 outbreak has been remarkable, from both an operational and a health and safety perspective. 

Connectivity to international markets was maintained, supply chains were protected and measures were put in place to protect the health and safety of users of (Irish) ports and shipping services. All of this was achieved while preparations ramped up for the UK’s departure from the EU, the result of which involves a new regime of border controls and inspections in our ports. This work was undertaken with commitment and professionalism by all workers in our maritime industry, who are deserving of our thanks and admiration. 

In conclusion, may I take this opportunity to wish all those involved in the maritime transport sector success in the vitally important work they do in maintaining and expanding Ireland’s trade links with the rest of the world and in driving growth, efficiency and competitiveness in our economy. 

The effects of COVID 19 continue to be felt in the maritime industry, but the resilience that the industry has demonstrated in recent times and the growing success of the Government’s vaccination programme, give cause for optimism in the industry’s to bounce back and contribute to the recovery the Irish economy.

Published in Irish Ports
Jehan Ashmore

About The Author

Jehan Ashmore

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Jehan Ashmore is a marine correspondent, researcher and photographer, specialising in Irish ports, shipping and the ferry sector serving the UK and directly to mainland Europe. Jehan also occasionally writes a column, 'Maritime' Dalkey for the (Dalkey Community Council Newsletter) in addition to contributing to UK marine periodicals. 

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As an island economy, a healthy maritime sector is key to our national competitiveness. Virtually all our imports and exports pass through Irish ports.

Ireland is dependent on ports and shipping services to transport goods and 90% of our trade is moved though Irish ports. Shipping and maritime transport services make a significant contribution to Ireland’s ocean economy, with the sector generating €2.3 billion in turnover and employing over 5,000 people in 2018.

Ireland’s maritime industry continues to grow and progress each year with Irish ports and shipping companies making significant investments. The ports sector in Ireland is currently undergoing a number of expansions and developments with Dublin Port’s Alexandra Basin development, the development of Ringaskiddy in Cork by Port of Cork and the development of Shannon Foynes Port. Along with these major investments, shipping companies are also investing heavily in new tonnage, with Irish Ferries, CLdN and Stena leading new build programmes.

These pages cover the following sectoral areas: shipowners, harbour authorities, shipbrokers, freight forwarders and contractors, cruise liner operators, port users, seamen, merchants, academic institutions, shipyards and repair facilities, naval architects, navy and defence personnel.

Our pages are covering some of the most notable arrivals around our coast and reporting too on port development and shipping news.

This section of the site deals with Port and Shipping News on our largest ports Dublin Port, Port of Cork, the Shannon Estuary, Galway Harbour and Belfast Lough.

A recent study carried out for the Irish Ports Association (IPA) totalled 75.7 billion during 2004 and their net economic impact was some 5.5 billion supporting around 57, 500 full time employees.

Liam Lacey, Director of the Marine Institute’s Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) said, “The Irish maritime industry can look to the future with confidence. It has shown itself to be resilient and agile in responding to challenges. Over the past decade, it has had to respond to the challenges of the financial crisis of 2008, the uncertainty surrounding Brexit and recent challenges. Ireland’s maritime sector has continued to underpin our economy by maintaining vital shipping links for both trade and tourism.”

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