Irish container routes show record traffic growth in 2004

Ireland’s container traffic continues its record growth with an increase of six per cent on key strategic shipping routes in 2004. The statistics are revealed in the latest issue of the Irish Maritime Transport Economist from the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) of the Marine Institute.

The container sector was boosted by the Irish economy continuing to make a strong recovery in 2004, although a slowdown in the final quarter resulted in growth in merchandise exports of just over two per cent.  The total value of Irish merchandise exports for the year is estimated to be €84 billion with imports valued at €50 billion, producing an overall surplus of €34 billion. This equates to goods valued in excess of €120 billion using the Irish maritime supply chain and its ports and shipping services.

The growth in container trades was reflected at the key Irish port container gateways in Dublin, Rosslare, Cork and Waterford with all of these ports recording increases in the growth of unitised freight in both load on/load-off and roll on/roll of modes. In contrast, growth in traditional break bulk and bulk trades was just over one per cent nationally.

Commenting on the figures the Director of the IMDO, Glenn Murphy said; “The latest edition of the Transport Economist continues to highlight the significant changes over the past decade on the pattern of Irish trade. A particular development has been the rise of containerised transport which has seen a 10 per cent growth to and from Ireland over this timescale, well ahead of the global average”.  However, Murphy points out  “that this strong growth in the container sector during 2004 was set against a backdrop of greater competition and increased capacity on key strategic routes combined with higher operating costs due to fuel and charter rates. In particular, the passenger-freight (Ro/Pax) sector also faced stiffer competition from low cost airlines that resulted in restructuring on several routes by major operators”

Early 1st Quarter indications are pointing towards another strong year of growth in the container market segment. However, the IMDO Bulletin concludes that the performance of the sector will be closely linked with the usual caveats of oil price volatility, currency factors with the strength of the Euro and domestic merchandise export performance this year.