Irish Ports see pace of volume growth level off


Mr Glenn Murphy, Director, Irish Maritime Development Office with Dr Dan McLaughlin, Chief Economist Bank of Ireland and Mr Jim Healy, Director, KPMG Ireland, Sponsors of the  9th annual Irish Maritime Transport Economist. Photograph: Johnny Bambury Photography

The pace of the volume recovery that began in 2010 for the Irish Ports and Shipping sector slowed last year in 2011 with only one of the five principle cargo segments seeing any growth, according to the latest annual edition of the Irish Maritime Transport Economist, which was released at an industry briefing in Dublin, today (April 19th) by the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO).  

The analysis highlights that only dry bulk volumes increased by 5% year on year. Unitised traffic on the main Irish Roll-on/Roll-off routes was flat with no growth in 2011,while the Lift-on/Lift-off container sector endured its 4th consecutive decline, down by 3%. Elsewhere, oil tanker volumes declined 2% and break bulk fell by 3% to the year end.  

The Irish ports and shipping sectors were confronted with a year of two distinct halves: 6 months of growth followed by 6 months of weaker demand. After a solid first quarter I Ireland witnessed clear evidence of shipping volume demand cooling over the remaining quarters.  Shipping volume growth almost halved in the second quarter before turning flat to negative over the remaining quarter to the year end as the expectation about the pace of the global recovery, and also European sovereign debt issues, remained.  

“The latest report again shows a strong correlation between developments in the real economy and the changing pattern of maritime traffic over the course of last year.” said IMDO Director Mr. Glenn Murphy. “We are optimistic, that despite the slowdown in the pace of the recovery last year, that most of the heavy volume losses have already been sustained, however the scope for growth this year remains limited and contingent on improved demand conditions in global markets.”  

The report notes that exports of container traffic to key overseas markets in the US and Asia increased by 5%, driven by the performance of the chemical, pharmaceutical and food & drink sectors, in particular dairy and meat exports. Traffic volume demand to and from the UK remained flat. However, container imports from overseas markets remain under pressure and recorded their 20th consecutive quarter of negative growth last year. This continues to provide logistical challenges for shipping lines seeking suitable container capacity to meet export demands.  

Providing the foreword to this years report, the Minister for Transport, Tourism and Sport, Leo Varadkar TD, commented “The efficient transport of goods into and out of the country is crucially important and supporting this is a key function of my Department. The development of a new ports policy will be of interest to those in the maritime transport sector. The existing ports policy is in need of a substantial overhaul. It is largely focused on corporate governance, it treats each of our nine port companies as though they were the same size and had the same role to play, and advocates a laissez faire approach by Government. It is my intention that, in the coming months, a new ports policy will be published and put in place.”    

The report concluded that the outlook for 2012 is for limited growth across the principal cargo sectors. It cautions the ongoing rise of bunker/fuel prices that have grown by 40% over the past 12 months, remains a constant challenge for shipowners and operators in all market segments.