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RoRo Volumes on ROI – GB Routes Fall By 31% in Q1 Unitised Traffic Report 2021

22nd April 2021
RoRo volumes on ROI – GB routes fell significantly, by 31%, with a surge in ROI – EU traffic, which rose by 74%.
RoRo volumes on ROI – GB routes fell significantly, by 31%, with a surge in ROI – EU traffic, which rose by 74%

In its first post-Brexit quarterly review of port volumes, the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) offers an overview of maritime traffic on an all-island basis.

Commenting on key points in the report, Liam Lacey, Director of the IMDO said that there were significant and unprecedented changes in maritime traffic on the island of Ireland in the first three months of 2021. RoRo volumes in the Republic of Ireland declined by 13% compared to Q1 2020, while LoLo volumes rose by 11% for the same period.

RoRo volumes on ROI – GB routes fell significantly, by 31%, with a surge in ROI – EU traffic, which rose by 74%. NI – GB volumes rose by 7% in the RoRo sector in Q1. The result of these changes was that ROI – EU routes now hold an 18% share of all island RoRo volumes.

The factors driving the considerable swings in unitised trade in Q1 2021 are complex and the future makeup of the market is still highly uncertain. The most impactful factors included: the suppressive effects of severe COVID-19 restrictions on economic activity in Ireland, the UK and across Europe; a pre-Brexit stockpile of merchandise goods that drove declines on GB routes at the beginning of 2021; and concerns of disruption on the UK Landbridge which resulted in increases on ROI – EU direct services, in both the LoLo and RoRo markets. There was also a marked decline in the use of ROI ports by NI importers and exporters wishing to access markets in GB.

Passenger traffic experienced precipitous declines throughout 2020, which continued into Q1 2021, with volumes in Ireland down by 78% and volumes in NI down by 46% for the first three months. The passenger market has been more severely disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic than any other sector of the shipping industry.

Mr Lacey cautioned that a final conclusion on the impact Brexit will have on the unitised freight and passenger markets cannot be reached on the basis of Q1 results alone. “The market is going through a phase of rebalancing, characterized by significant increases in capacity on some routes, significant reductions in both freight and passenger volumes, increased competition and considerable uncertainty. What is certain is that the shipping industry in Ireland is open, responsive, resilient and highly competitive. This is evidenced by the fact that there has been a twofold increase in capacity on direct EU services in the past 12 months, despite the effects of COVID-19 restrictions on economic activity throughout that time.”

“Ports, shipping companies and those working in the haulage, logistics and distribution sectors should be commended for continuing to provide essential services and maintain vital supply chains in the face of unprecedented challenges,” Lacey added.

The IMDO will continue to monitor these markets closely and will advise the Department of Transport and inform stakeholders with frequent reporting. The Q1 Unitised Traffic Report for 2021 is now available here.

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