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The Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) will be at the Connecting Europe Days 2024, Europe’s mobility flagship event, held at the Square in Brussels, Belgium.

Representatives from the IMDO will be at stand 49 during the two days of the event between 2-5 April.

This event will be the place to discuss concrete measures and exchange good practices on creating a sustainable, smart and resilient, transport and mobility network in Europe. It will take stock of the ambitious goals set out in the EU Green Deal and the Sustainable and Smart Mobility Strategy.

It will focus on four main topics:
• the launch of the nine new ‘European Transport Corridors’ of the trans-European transport network (TEN-T), which also extend to neighbouring third countries, notably Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova as well as the Western Balkan partners.
• the resilience of the European transport network to the changing climate, by highlighting the devastating impacts of climate change on infrastructure and presenting possible adaptation measures.
• connectivity of our transport network with neighbouring third countries and its preparedness for external threats, by showcasing key initiatives for seamless trade flows such as the “Solidarity Lanes”. We will also exchange on measures to improve infrastructure capacity for military mobility.
• the future of funding and financing opportunities for transport infrastructure projects.

Participants will see state-of-the art innovations first-hand at an exhibition of EU-funded projects. The event is being organised together with the Belgian Presidency of the Council of the EU.

Published in Ports & Shipping

The latest Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) Unitised Traffic Report for Q4 2023 has been published with an Executive Summary below. As part of the Marine Institute, the IMDO is Irelands' dedicated, development, promotional and marketing office for the shipping and shipping services sectors.

Executive Summary

Overall, unitised volumes, which encompasses both RoRo and LoLo markets, were below trend in Q4 2023, and have stagnated throughout the year. This is not surprising, given the difficult economic environment within which Irish importers and exporters have traded in recent years. However, unitised traffic has also avoided sharp declines. When the recent challenges are considered, the theme of unitised traffic at ports on the island of Ireland instead becomes one of resilience in 2023.

RoRo traffic in Republic of Ireland (ROI) ports declined by 2% in the fourth quarter of 2023, to 289,971 units. When compared to recent years, this represents a subdued performance, as it is the first time in five years that RoRo traffic has failed to surpass 290,000 units in the fourth quarter. In the intervening years (2018 – 2022), fourth quarter RoRo volumes averaged 305,000 units. In Northern Ireland, RoRo volumes grew by 4%, to 222,740 units. On the island of Ireland, RoRo traffic amounted to 512,711 units, or 1% higher than Q4 2022.

The 2% decline in ROI RoRo traffic in Q4 2023 was driven primarily by ROI – GB routes. One of the factors behind this decline was the ending of the P&O service between Dublin and Liverpool, which was announced in August 2023. The service wound down in the final months of the year, meaning comparisons between Dublin – GB traffic in Q4 2023 and 2022 were affected. In December 2023, it was announced that Stena Line will enter this market by adding a service between Dublin and Liverpool that will begin in February 20241. The announcement is reflective of two characteristics of the Irish RoRo market. Firstly, the ability for shipping companies to respond quickly and add capacity at relatively short notice, and secondly, the resilience of demand for ROI – GB services, despite post-Brexit declines.

At port level, volumes were mixed. Dublin Port handled 236,571 units, a decline of 5% versus Q4 2022. In Rosslare Europort however, RoRo volumes grew by 12%. At 51,714 units, this is the highest Q4 volume for Rosslare recorded by the IMDO. As mentioned in previous IMDO reporting in 2023, Rosslare RoRo traffic has benefitted from a shift in demand towards direct (ROI – EU) routes following the end of the Brexit transition period. In 2023, the increase in RoRo traffic at Rosslare was driven by an announcement in late 2022 that a Cork-Zeebrugge service operated by Grimaldi would move to Rosslare Europort. Finnlines, a Finnish shipping company that is part of the Grimaldi Group, now operates the service from Rosslare. In February 2023, Finnlines announced that a second vessel will be added to this route from Rosslare.

In the LoLo market, traffic at ROI ports rose by 5% in Q4 2023, to 278,850 TEU’s. In Northern Ireland, volumes grew by 4% through Belfast, and for the island of Ireland, TEU volumes grew by 5%.

The 5% growth recorded in LoLo traffic in Q4 is a welcome development, as it brings to an end four consecutive quarters of steep annual declines, during which time LoLo traffic declined by an average of 8% per quarter. However, the volumes handled this quarter at ROI ports still represent an underperformance. Throughout 2021 and 2022, LoLo volumes averaged above 290,000 TEU’s per quarter.

Overall, unitised (container) volumes, which encompasses both RoRo and LoLo markets, were below trend in Q4 2023, and have stagnated throughout the year. This is not surprising, given the difficult economic environment within which Irish importers and exporters have traded in recent years. Sharp increases in inflation, rising interest rates, and sluggish global growth have suppressed unitised traffic, beginning in the latter half of 2022. However, unitised traffic has also avoided sharp declines, holding onto much of the gains made during the COVID-19 related surge in trade. When the recent challenges are considered, the theme of unitised traffic at ports on the island of Ireland instead becomes one of resilience in 2023.

To consult the IMDO report in full, click here. 

Published in Ports & Shipping

The Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) has released its Unitised Traffic Report for the third quarter of 2023.

The volume of RoRo traffic at Republic of Ireland ports declined by 2% to 291,879 units in the third quarter of 2023 when compared to the same period in 2022. Traffic to ports in Great Britain and ports in mainland Europe both fell by 2% each. All three Irish (RoRo) ports – Dublin, Cork and Rosslare Europort – recorded a decline this quarter. For RoRo traffic, July and August are relatively quiet months, as the holiday season is in full force. September however, is a busy month, with volumes typically 3% above average as preparations begin for the pre-Christmas period. In September 2023, volumes declined by 5% when compared to 2022.

In all, the volumes recorded in Q3 2023 are slightly below trend for the Irish RoRo market, whereby the long term trajectory of volumes are roughly 300,000 units per quarter. Passing 1.2m RoRo units for the full year, as was achieved in 2022, is now unlikely, but shipping operators and ports will be hopeful that the busy months of October and November can recoup some of the losses from this year.

In the LoLo market, traffic declined by 6% to 277,60 TEU’s. For each of the three Irish LoLo ports - Dublin, Cork and Waterford - this is the lowest third quarter performance of the post-Brexit era . The long term trajectory of Irish LoLo traffic is between 290,000 – 295,000 TEU’s per quarter. The latter half of 2022 and the first three quarters of 2023 has been a difficult period for this sector, with volumes generally below trend.

In Northern Ireland, RoRo traffic performed strongly in Q3 2023, as volumes rose by 3%. In the LoLo sector, traffic was roughly equivalent to Q3 2022. This is a resilient performance from Northern Irish ports in the face of difficult economic headwinds.

For Irish unitised traffic (i.e. RoRo and LoLo), the predominant factor driving declines in 2023 has been high inflation and interest rates, coupled with heightened geopolitical uncertainty. Higher prices, higher borrowing costs, and greater uncertainty serve to suppress demand for finished products such as those transported by the unitised shipping sector.

Irish unitised traffic is sensitive to domestic demand indicators such as Irish consumption levels, GDP and modified domestic demand. On all three measures, the outlook is positive for 2024 in Ireland, as the Central Bank predicts increases of more than 2%. Internationally, the outlook is mixed. The IMF recently described the global economic outlook as ‘stable but slow’, with global growth expected to fall from 3.5% to 3% in 2023, and 2.9% in 2024.

This characterization by the IMF is reflective of the performance of the global container market, a useful bellwether for the global economic outlook. Clarkson’s Research predicts European container exports to both Asia and North America to decline in 2023 by 6% and 10% respectively in 2023. Intra-regional container trade in Europe is expected to decline by 6%. These indicators are highly relevant to Irish ports, as this global containership network is essential for Irish importers and exporters to access international markets.

Overall, resilient domestic demand is offsetting difficult global economic conditions. Irish ports have recorded declines in Q3 2023, but have held on to the gains made in recent years, avoiding steep declines in traffic.

To read the full Unitised Traffic Report Q3 2023, click the attachment below.

As the majority of LoLo routes in Ireland are direct to mainland EU ports, Brexit had a significant and positive effect on container volumes, beginning in early 2021.

Published in Ports & Shipping

Volumes handled by the Roll-on/Roll-off (RoRo) and Lift-on/Lift-off (LoLo) cargo modes at Irish ports declined significantly in the first six months of 2023, according to a new report from the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO).

When compared to the first half of 2022, RoRo volumes fell by 3%, equivalent to 20,000 fewer RoRo units. LoLo traffic fell by 9%, or 55,000 TEU’s, over the same period.

The IMDO says the predominant driver of these declines has been inflation, which has risen considerably both at home and abroad over the last 18 months.

Beginning with a rapid rise in energy costs in early 2022, the cost of transporting goods, and the cost of goods themselves, has risen sharply. This has suppressed trade at Irish ports, with traffic on almost all routes declining to some degree.

In the RoRo market, volumes in Q1 and Q2 declined by 4% and 3% respectively. Volumes in both quarters were below the long -term trend for the sector, the benchmark for which is approximately 300,000 units per quarter. When seasonally adjusted, RoRo traffic declined on a quarterly basis in four of the last five quarters.

Rosslare-Europort was the only port to record an increase compared to 2022. This was driven by an announcement in late 2022 that a Cork-Zeebrugge service operated by Grimaldi would move to Rosslare Europort. Finnlines, a Finnish shipping company that is part of the Grimaldi Group, now operates the service from Rosslare.

The breakdown in RoRo traffic between ports in mainland Great Britain (ROI–GB) and ports in mainland Europe (ROI–EU) has now exhibited the same post-Brexit trends for ten consecutive quarters. ROI–EU, or direct, RoRo traffic continues to represent one in three RoRo units, compared to one in three prior to January 2021. As a result, there is no immediate sign of a return to the pre-Brexit makeup of the Irish RoRo freight market.

In the LoLo market, volumes in Q1 and Q2 declined by 7% and 11% respectively. The declines in LoLo traffic were also reflected at an international level. Global seaborne trade indicators for container traffic exhibited sharp declines, particularly in the early months of 2023, a trend that was mirrored at Irish ports.

Overall, the volumes recorded in the unitised freight market at Irish ports in the first half of 2023 were sluggish, below trend, and reflective of the suppressive effect inflation has had on international trade volumes.

However, there are several reasons to be optimistic about the near future for Irish maritime traffic, the IMDO adds.

Firstly, inflation has begun to ease across the EU. In Ireland, the inflation rate in July was 4.6%, its lowest level since September 2021. Secondly, according to latest Central Bank reports, domestic growth in Ireland remains robust and is higher than what was expected earlier in the year. Unemployment is extremely low, and this is creating resilience within the economy.

Abroad, EU growth is subdued, while US growth is improving. Both are also buoyed by high employment levels. Most importantly, global inflation rates are easing.

In all, there are positive signals that the declines recorded at Irish ports may be temporary, and that the worst period may have passed, the IMDO says, as it emphasises that “there is a resilience in the Irish maritime freight market”—demonstrated by the response to disruption from both Brexit and the pandemic—“that is essential to overcoming economic headwinds such as these”.

The Unitised Traffic Report Q1 & Q2 2023 is attached below.

Published in Irish Ports
Tagged under

The Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) has released it Unitised Traffic Report for Q4 2022 (see attachment) and an Executive Summary as outlined below.

The fourth quarter of 2022 was defined by a slowdown in unitised traffic on the island of Ireland, as global inflationary pressures finally began to affect the volume of merchandise goods handled at ports. RoRo and LoLo traffic in Ireland and Northern Ireland declined on an annual basis, pausing momentum that had been built in the first half of 2022.

Roll-On Roll-Off (RoRo) Market

RoRo traffic at Republic of Ireland ports declined by 3% year on year in the fourth quarter of 2022. Due to the disruptive effects of COVID-19 and Brexit throughout 2020 and 2021, 2019 is an effective benchmark to compare 2022 volumes. Q4 2022 recorded just over 295,000 RoRo units, an almost identical total to that handled in Q4 2019. Despite its close comparison with 2019 levels, the volume of RoRo traffic recorded in Q4 2022 represents a relatively underwhelming performance for the sector. Even with the spikes in traffic volumes throughout the COVID-19 and Brexit period, a growing RoRo sector in Ireland would expect to average approximately 300,000 – 305,000 units per quarter. In the first half of 2022, such volumes were evident and signs were positive. In the latter half of 2022 however, the negative economic headwinds, predominantly inflation, began to show, and the sector failed to surpass 300,000 units in both Q3 and Q4.

However, despite the recent slowdown in traffic volumes, the gains made in the first half of the year were enough to ensure 2022 was still a record year for RoRo traffic in Ireland. RoRo traffic surpassed 1.2 million units for the first time, above the previous peak of 1.19m units reached in 2019.

Prior to Brexit, the RoRo sector was comprised of roughly 1 million units on ROI – GB routes, and 200,000 on direct EU routes. In 2022, it is comprised of roughly 800,000 ROI – GB units, and 400,000 direct EU units. The shift has been driven by post-Brexit trading arrangements. Post-Brexit, traffic on ROI – GB routes has declined significantly, while traffic on ROI – EU routes has doubled. In short, this has been drive by the following three main factors; the decline in the use of the UK Landbridge, a decline in Northern Irish importers and exporters using ROI – GB routes as a means of accessing southern UK markets, and the relocation of some large retail warehouses from central UK to mainland Europe.

In the two years that have now passed since the new Brexit arrangements came into effect, this shift has remained remarkably consistent. From the early months of 2021, ROI – EU traffic has consistently represented one in every three RoRo units in Irish ports, with little deviation throughout. Similarly, traffic on ROI – GB routes has consistently been 20% below its 2019 benchmark, with little sign of a swift return to those volumes. RoRo traffic on both GB and EU routes fell by 3% in Q4 2022, a reflection of the global economic environment, rather than any shift in post-Brexit market composition.

In all, surpassing 1.2 million units is an important milestone for the RoRo sector, as it would likely have been achieved before 2022 had the negative effects of the first wave of COVID-19 in 2020, or the Brexit stockpiling effects in early 2021, not occurred. 2022 therefore represents a return to the momentum built up in the rapid period of growth in Irish maritime traffic recorded between 2014 and 2019. In addition, it once again highlights the resilience of this sector of the Irish economy to exhibit a reliability throughout difficult economic periods.

Load-On/Load-Off (LoLo) Market

In the fourth quarter of 2022, LoLo traffic at Irish ports declined by 8% on an annual basis. This equates to a loss of 22,501 TEU’s. At 265,506 TEU’s, this is the lowest quarterly LoLo total for Irish ports since Q2 2020, during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Prior to Brexit, LoLo traffic in Ireland peaked in 2019, recording 1.06m TEU’s in that year, and averaging approximately 265,000 TEUs per quarter. In 2021, this average rose to 294,000 TEUs a quarter. In the first three quarters of 2022, further gains were made, as LoLo traffic averaged roughly 297,000 TEUs per quarter.

The drivers of these increases in 2021 and 2022 are the same as those that drove a surge in ROI – EU RoRo traffic; a decline in the use of the UK Landbridge and the relocation of some large retail warehouses from central UK to mainland Europe. Approximately 85% of LoLo traffic from Irish ports is to / from ports in Belgium and The Netherlands, particularly large European transport hubs such as Rotterdam or Antwerp. LoLo traffic has therefore been well placed to benefit from increased demand for direct access to such ports.

The decline in Q4 2022 to levels similar to those recorded in 2019 interrupts the post-Brexit momentum built up since the first quarter of 2021. The cause of this decline is most likely due to the inflationary pressures in large global economies with whom Ireland frequently uses LoLo vessels to trade with.

In Section 2, Figure 3 illustrates how the level of inflation in 2022 for goods only, a more relevant measure for the unitised trade sector, has outpaced headline inflation for all items, which include services. In addition, Figure 4 shows a steep decline in international freight rates for containerships vessels. This illustrates that the demand for capacity has fallen as inflation has taken hold, and that this is not a phenomenon isolated to the Irish economy.

Published in Ports & Shipping

The IMDO and the Department of Transport recently hosted a port director's training programme in Dublin.

This one-day training took place on last Tuesday 18 October in The Alex Hotel in Dublin city centre and was aimed at promoting the highest standards of corporate governance.

The programme differed from mainstream training for directors as it maintained a port-centric focus and an emphasis on best practice in corporate governance standards.

In summary, the training aimed to:

  • familiarise directors with the particular circumstances and conditions prevailing within the ports industry in Ireland and the objectives and responsibilities set for port companies under the National Ports Policy;
  • inform directors regarding their responsibilities and duties as company directors and the particular responsibilities that are associated with State boards;
  • describe the different sides of governance, using case examples;
  • facilitate an interactive approach that will stimulate discussion around the particular issues facing the directors of port companies; and
  • identify the contribution that ports make to the Irish economy and the need for strong and open competition within the sector.
Published in Ports & Shipping
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The Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) has published its Q2, 2022 Unitised Traffic Report with an executive summary below.

In addition to consult the full report, see attachment.

Executive Summary

At the midway stage in 2022, unitised traffic volumes - made up of finished goods such as food, clothing and manufactured products - are performing strongly.

In the Roll – On / Roll – Off (RoRo) market, Dublin Port, Rosslare Europort and the Port of Cork handled a combined total of more than 600,000 units in the first half of the year. This represents 2% growth on 2019, or pre-pandemic, volumes, and means that the RoRo market is now on track to surpass 1.2 million units in 2022, a record annual total.

In the Lift – On / Lift – Off (container) market, traffic volumes are currently at record levels. Dublin Port, the Port of Cork and the Port of Waterford handled 595,000 Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEU’s) in the first half of 2022. This represents 11% growth compared to 2019, or pre-pandemic levels, and 1% growth from 2021. The second quarter of 2022 recorded a total volume of over 311,000 TEU’s, the highest quarterly total on record. Like the RoRo market, the LoLo market is also on course to record 1.2m TEU’s in 2022, surpassing the annual record set in 2021 of 1.18m TEU’s.

Following the end of the Brexit transition period on January 1st 2021, the IMDO reported on the significant impact this event had on the structure of the unitised freight market on the island of Ireland. Eighteen months into the post-Brexit era, these impacts remain unchanged. The following paragraphs encompass the main shifts that have occurred in unitised freight markets in Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Direct Demand

The demand from Irish importers and exporters for RoRo services on direct routes between a port in the Republic of Ireland and a mainland European port (e.g. Cherbourg, Rotterdam) rose dramatically. In 2021, the volume of RoRo traffic on these direct services rose by an unprecedented 94%, from 198,000 units per year, to 383,000. This trend has continued into 2022. One in three RoRo units now travels on a direct route between Ireland and a mainland European port, compared to approximately one in six pre-Brexit.

Since the end of the Brexit transition period, RoRo operators have responded to this demand by introducing unprecedented levels of capacity on direct routes. Incumbents announced increases in fleet size, vessel capacity, as well as intensification of existing schedules. In addition, several new routes were introduced.
The momentum behind this increase in direct capacity has also continued into 2022. In July, Finnlines, a subsidiary of the Grimaldi group, launched a new RoRo route between Rosslare and Zeebrugge. This investment by another new entrant to the Irish RoRo market reemphasizes the persistent nature of this ‘direct demand.’

Intra – Modal Competition

In the LoLo market, the majority of services from ports in the Republic of Ireland are already on direct routes to mainland European ports, such as Rotterdam and Antwerp. Like RoRo operators, LoLo operators have therefore benefitted from the post-Brexit increase in demand from Irish importers and exporters to access EU ports directly, without the need to adhere to new customs requirements at UK ports.

As a result of this change in demand from Irish importers and exporters, intra-modal competition within the unitised freight market (i.e. RoRo Vs LoLo) has increased significantly post-Brexit. Services offered by both operators can be effective substitutes for one another, providing access to central European shipping hubs, meaning operators in both markets compete for similar business.

Loss of Landbridge

Beginning in early 2021, the IMDO has documented the significant declines in RoRo traffic between ports in the Republic of Ireland and Great Britain (i.e. ROI – GB). This traffic has consistently been between 15% and 20% below pre-Brexit levels, and this remains unchanged in 2022. This has been driven by the following three factors.

First, a decline in the demand from Irish importers and exporters to make us of the UK road and ports network as a means to access markets in mainland Europe, a route commonly known and the UK Landbridge. This has been the predominant cause of the decline in ROI – GB traffic. This UK Landridge traffic has, in large part, moved to the direct EU services described above.

Second, a decline in the demand of Northern Irish importers and exporters to make use short sea RoRo services between Republic of Ireland ports and UK ports, particularly Dublin Port, as a means of accessing markets in Southern England and Wales. This can be referred to as the Irish Landbridge. This Irish Landbridge traffic has moved to RoRo services between Northern Irish ports and ports in Great Britain, (i.e. NI – GB), driving record volumes on these routes, and causing further losses for Irish port traffic.

Lastly, the relocation of distribution hubs from Great Britain to mainland European countries has amplified the reduction in ROI – GB traffic. Following the end of the Brexit transition period, several large retail companies with Irish stores have relocated distribution warehouses from areas such as southern England, to areas such as northern France and the Benelux region.

In all of the cases described, the imposition of customs declarations and customs checks on trade between the EU and the UK has underscored these shifts in Irish freight traffic patterns.

Conclusions

The IMDO has noted in previous reporting that Brexit has fundamentally altered the composition of Irish maritime freight traffic. At the midway point in 2022, this remains the case. Direct demand in RoRo and LoLo markets is at record levels, with more new RoRo routes added in the second quarter of 2022. Roro traffic on GB routes continues to record declines of between 15% and 20%, with no immediate signs of a return of Northern Irish traffic or UK Landbridge traffic to pre-Brexit levels at Irish ports.

Overall, unitised freight traffic in Ireland is strong, given the many challenges faced over the past two years. However, economic headwinds such as inflation, high energy costs, elevated containership freight rates, and persistent port congestion at major hubs have meant that the outlook for global seaborne trade is increasingly negative. Despite the extremely high levels of uncertainty, the Irish maritime sector has, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, proven its considerable resilience and adaptability to changing global circumstances. These characteristics may be required again in the latter half of 2022.

Published in Ports & Shipping

The Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) has published its Unitised Traffic Report for Q1, 2022 with an executive summary below in addition to a full report, see attachment.

RoRo

RoRo traffic in the first quarter of 2022 grew by 18% when compared to Q1 2021. This rise was expected, as a significant pre-Brexit stockpile, coupled with COVID-19 lockdown measures, suppressed traffic volumes in Q1 2021. When compared to Q1 2020, traffic is 4% higher in 2022. At 296,000 RoRo units, this is a robust performance for the sector that is in line with 2019 volumes, a year which recorded the highest annual total on record.

The increase this quarter was driven by traffic on ROI – GB routes, which rose by 22%. It was on GB routes where the pre-Brexit stockpiling effect in early 2021 was most concentrated. GB traffic through Dublin Port rose by 24% year-on-year, while GB traffic through Rosslare Europort rose by 4%. However, ROI – GB traffic remains approximately 20% below pre-Brexit levels, with no imminent sign of a rapid return to such levels.

ROI – EU RoRo traffic has held on to the remarkable gains made throughout 2021. ROI – EU traffic rose by 10% when compared to Q1 2021. Again, this was expected given the unusually low volumes recorded in early 2021. There were significant COVID-19 economic restrictions in place during that period. As with previous waves of economic restrictions in 2020, a decline in maritime traffic followed.

Elsewhere in the Irish RoRo market, it should be noted also that RoRo traffic at the Port of Cork is performing strongly, with the addition of two new services in 2021 now showing up in traffic handled. Overall, both ROI – GB and ROI – EU traffic have recorded volumes that are in line with those handled throughout 2021. As a result, the post-Brexit makeup of Irish RoRo traffic remains unaltered.

In Northern Ireland, RoRo traffic in Q1 2022 is in line with Q1 2021, recorded 0% growth. However, this is roughly 6% below the average quarterly volume recorded in Northern Irish ports throughout 2021, wherein record volumes were handled. The disruption caused by P&O ferries restructuring in March 2022 led to the loss of traffic at the port of Larne, and this explains much of this decline.

LoLo

As highlighted in the latest volume of the Irish Maritime Transport Economist, LoLo traffic through Irish ports have also benefitted from post-Brexit demand for direct services to mainland Europe. Record volumes of LoLo TEUs were handled in 2021. In Q1 2022, LoLo traffic through ROI ports is 1% higher than the same period in 2021.

By pre-Brexit measures, the ROI volume of 284,058 TEUs is a record-breaking total. The highest quarterly volume of LoLo traffic recorded before the end of the Brexit transition period was just over 280,000 TEUs. By post-Brexit measures, however, this quarterly total represents a relatively subdued performance. The average quarterly volume of TEUs recorded through ROI ports in 2021 was just over 293,000 TEUs. The volume in Q1 2022 is 3% below this average. This is also the case for LoLo traffic at Northern Ireland ports. The post-Brexit quarterly average through Belfast Harbour and Warrenpoint was 64,500 TEUs. The volume in Q1 2022 is 4% below this average.

This loss of momentum in LoLo traffic is reflective of the increasing cost of container freight rates, which have risen sharply since mid-2021. Charter rates for feeder containership vessels rose by a factor of six between Q1 2019 and Q1 2022. Such dramatic increases in freight rates were caused by a combination of port congestion at major hubs, disruption to the supply lines of new vessels, and changes in global consumption patterns since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Passengers

When compared to Q1 2021, a period of significant travel restrictions, maritime passenger traffic in Q1 2022 rose by more than 200%. 210,000 passengers transited through Dublin, Cork and Rosslare on ferry services, almost 150,000 more than the same period in 2021. However, this remains 31%, or roughly 95,000 passengers, fewer than Q1 2019. The return to pre-pandemic passenger volumes has therefore yet to be reached.

In Northern Ireland, passenger volumes have made a full return to pre-pandemic levels. In Q1 2022 passenger numbers at Belfast and Larne were 102% higher than in the same period in Q1 2021. They are now 35% higher than 2020, and 17% higher than in Q1 2019.

Published in Ports & Shipping

The 19th and latest edition of the Irish Maritime Transport Economist, a report produced by the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) on Ireland’s maritime freight industry, has been published today (Monday 23 May) and makes for encouraging reading for the ports and shipping sector.

This edition reports on 2021, a year marked by the reorganisation of Irish supply chains following the end of the Brexit transition period, and a rebounding of demand in port traffic as COVID-19 restrictions were gradually eased.

The year under review was one of significant change in the RoRo freight market. With the end of the Brexit transition period came a surge in the demand for services on direct routes between Irish ports and mainland European ports.

RoRo traffic on these services rose by 94% compared to 2020. This demand was driven largely by a reduction in the use of the UK Landbridge. RoRo traffic to ports in Great Britain declined by 22% as a result of the shift in Landbridge traffic and also the redirection of Northern Irish traffic from ports in the Republic of Ireland to services through Belfast, Larne and Warrenpoint.

Direct EU traffic now represents one third of all RoRo volume, compared to 17% in recent years. In addition, LoLo traffic, the majority of which moves on direct routes to mainland Europe, increased to record levels, growing by 11% to just under 1.2m TEU’s.

Last year was also one of resurgent demand for Irish port traffic, as COVID-19 restrictions were gradually lifted and economic activity began its return towards pre-pandemic levels.

Break bulk traffic, made up largely of construction materials, rose significantly as Ireland’s construction industry regained momentum. Liquid bulk volumes increased gradually throughout the year and by the fourth quarter, were back at 2019 volumes.

In the RoRo passenger sector, numbers began to rise rapidly following the introduction of the EU’s Digital COVID Certificate which facilitated a return to international travel. 

And in the RoRo market, the number of weekly sailings to mainland European ports rose from 30 sailings per week to more than 60 at different points throughout the year. Two new entrants arrived into the RoRo market in 2021, such that now there are six shipping companies offering 13 different direct RoRo services to mainland EU ports, increasing capacity in what is a dynamic and competitive market. 

Commenting on the 19th edition of the IMTE, Hildegarde Naughton, Minister of State for International and Road Transport and Logistics, said: “I commend all stakeholders who contributed to the Brexit response and would like to express my appreciation for their efforts in maintaining Ireland’s connectivity to both GB and European markets.

“Ireland’s maritime industry was instrumental in maintaining a strong, connected economy throughout the monumental challenges of Brexit and COVID-19. I would like to acknowledge the efforts of the ports and shipping sectors and express my thanks for the invaluable services they provide.”

Liam Lacey, director of the IMDO, commented on the year ahead: “There are many reasons to be positive about the future of the Irish shipping industry. Demand is expected to rise further in 2022 as the effects of COVID-19 dissipate, and the period of greatest Brexit-related uncertainty passes.

“However, many new challenges lie ahead. The IMDO will continue to monitor these closely and report on the impacts for the Irish maritime industry.”

The Irish Maritime Transport Economist, Volume 19 is available to read and download on the IMDO website HERE.

Published in Ports & Shipping

The iShip Index outlining trends within Ireland’s shipping industry grew by 5% in 2021, the Irish Maritime Development Office says.

The IMDO’s iShip Index is a quarterly weighted indicator that accounts for five separate market segments, representing the main maritime traffic sectors moving through ports in the Republic of Ireland.

These comprise unitised trade which includes lift-on/lift-off (LoLo) and roll-on/roll-of (RoRo), and bulk traffic which includes break bulk, dry bulk and liquid bulk.

The IMDO says 2021’s figure is the fastest rate of growth in the index since 2017, and represents a return to the volumes of freight handled in 2018 and 2019 after the suppressive effect of the COVID-19 on port traffic.

Just over 54 million tonnes of freight were handled at Irish ports in 2021, a 2.8 million-ton increase compared to 2020, the IMDO says.

In the dry bulk market, a 10% annual increase compared to 2020 was almost entirely driven by coal. This trend is reflected in port traffic volumes, as imports of coal through Shannon Foynes Port Company rose by over 1.2m tonnes.

In the liquid bulk market, growth of 7% was driven by oil, Ireland’s largest source of domestic energy. Imports of petroleum rose in all three of Ireland’s Tier 1 ports in 2021 as demand for domestic and aviation fuel rose in line with the lifting of COVID-19 restrictions.

Lastly, break bulk traffic across Irish ports rose significantly in 2021, increasing by 12%. This was driven by a return to construction activity in the domestic and international markets after severe restrictions within the sector throughout 2020.

In the unitised freight market, performance in 2021 was defined by two main characteristics. Firstly, 2021 recorded a surge in demand on direct services between the Republic of Ireland and mainland European ports, driven by the post-Brexit transfer of traffic away from the UK landbridge.

LoLo traffic, measured in Twenty-Foot Equivalent Units (TEUs), rose by 12% to 1.17m TEUs, the highest annual volume on record. RoRo traffic on direct routes grew by 94% to an unprecedented level of 383,000 RoRo units.

The second predominant trend that emerged in 2021 was the increase in RoRo traffic at Northern Ireland’s ports.

Through consultations with stakeholders and through detailed analysis of time series trends of RoRo traffic on the island of Ireland, the IMDO says it is clear that haulage companies based in Northern Ireland have transferred significant volumes of business away from RoRo services in ports in the Republic of Ireland.

The IMD suggests that this, along with the move away from the UK landbridge, explains the decline in RoRo traffic between Irish and UK ports in 2021. These volumes declined by 22% in 2021.

Overall RoRo traffic in the Republic of Ireland declined by 3% this year, offset by the surge in traffic on direct services. RoRo traffic in Northern Ireland grew by 12%.

In all, freight volumes through the Republic of Ireland recorded robust growth in 2021, and have returned to levels consistent with those before the COVID-19 pandemic.

Meanwhile, Brexit has had a significant impact on the composition of the Irish RoRo market and has led to unprecedented volumes in the Irish LoLo market.

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About the 29er Skiff Dinghy

The 29er is a one-design double-handed, single trapeze skiff for youth sailors.

There is an active class in Ireland, just one of the 38-countries from across all continents now racing the high-performance skiff.

The 29er is one of the latest dinghy classes to arrive in Ireland and has a 50/50 split between boys and girls.

The class like to describe the boat as "The most popular skiff for sailors who want to go fast!".

Derived from the Olympic class 49er class and designed by Julian Bethwaite the 29er was first produced in 1998.

Two sailors sail the 29er, one on trapeze.

The class is targeted at youth sailors aiming at sailing the larger 49er which is an Olympic class.


The 6.25-metre high rig features a fractional asymmetrical spinnaker; a self-tacking jib decreases the workload of the crew, making manoeuvres more efficient and freeing the crew to take the mainsheet upwind and on two-sail reaches.

The 15.00 m2 spinnaker rigging set-up challenges crews to be fit and coordinated, and manoeuvres in the boat require athleticism due to its lack of inherent stability and the high speed with which the fully battened mainsail and jib power up.

The 74kg weight hull is constructed of fibreglass-reinforced polyester in a foam sandwich layout.

The fully battened mainsail and jib are made from a transparent Mylar laminate with orange or red Dacron trimming, while the spinnaker is manufactured from ripstop Nylon.

The mast is in three parts - an aluminium bottom and middle section, with a polyester-fibreglass composite tip to increase mast bend and decrease both overall weights, and the capsizing moment a heavy mast tip can generate. Foils are aluminium or fibreglass.

About the ILCA/Laser Dinghy

The ILCA, formerly known as the Laser, is the most produced boat in the world, with 220,000 units built since 1971.

It's easy to see why the single-handed dinghy has won the title of the most widely distributed boat of all time.

The Laser is a one-design dinghy, the hulls being identical but three rigs that can be used according to the size and weight of the sailor.

The class is international, with sailors from 120 countries. The boat has also been an Olympic class since 1996, being both the men's and women's singlehanded dinghy.

Three rigs are recognised by the International Laser Class Association (ILCA):

  • ILCA 4: sail of 4.70m2
  • ILCA 6: sail of 5.76 m2
  • ILCA 7: sail of 7.06 m2

29er skiff technical specs

  • Hull weight 74kg (163lb)
  • LOA 4.45m (14.4ft)
  • Beam 1.77m (5ft 7in)
  • Crew 2 (single trapeze) 
  • Spinnaker area 15.00 m2 (181.2sq.ft)
  • Upwind sail area 12.5 m2 (142.0 sq.ft)
  • Mast length 6.25m (20.5ft)

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