This is according to the 11th annual edition of the Irish Maritime Transport Economist publication.
Irish Maritime Development Office director Liam Lacey commented that the increase gives "cause for greater optimism than has been the case in recent years.
"The volume of trade that moves through Irish ports is a reliable indicator of national economic performance and activity," he added.
“Although traffic through Irish ports has not returned to the levels that were recorded prior to the recession, it is noteworthy that the iShip Index, which is an aggregate measure of trade volumes, rose to 862 points for 2013, up 3% on the previous year."
Within this increase, figures show that Ro/Ro volumes rose by 6% buoyed by transfers from the Lo/Lo mode, while dry-bulk traffic also grew by 6%, resulting mostly from an increased demand for animal feed and coal.
“Additional demand for construction-related materials contributed to break-bulk traffic growing to 961,803 tonnes, up 20% on the previous year," said Lacey, who added that while liquid-bulk and Lo/Lo traffic fell by 14% and 1% respectively, these decreases in volume were caused by market anomalies rather than a reduction in total demand.
Meanwhile, within the tourism sector, Irish ports "continued to capitalise on the global rise in cruise business over the last decade, as vessel calls to the island of Ireland rose to 277 during 2013.
"In this category, the majority of visitors came from North America, Britain and Germany," said Lacey.
Ferry tourism, encompassing services between the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain, also showed an increase of 1% to 2.33 million passengers. "This increase marks an important turning point as growth returns to a market segment that has been in decline since 2010," said the IMDO director.
As for the first four-plus month of 2014, Lacey said preliminary figures "suggest that the trends in the maritime transport sector that were observed in 2013 have continued and that a degree of cautious optimism is justified.”
Commenting on the report, Minister for Transport Leo Varadkar said he welcomed initiatives being undertaken by Ireland's ports "to provide the additional capacity that will be needed as our economy continues to recover and expand.
"I also welcome recent increases in shipping capacity and the development of new trade routes. These developments auger well for economic growth and are supportive of the objectives of the National Ports Policy and the Government’s plan for National Recovery 2011-2016.
"As reported in the IMTE, the international shipping environment remains challenging. Nonetheless, we have begun to see signs of recovery in the Irish maritime sector, as evidenced by the growth in trade, through Irish ports in 2013.”