26th May 2022: The Marine Institute has welcomed the publication of the 19th edition of The Irish Maritime Transport Economist, a report produced by the Marine Institute's Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) on Ireland's maritime freight industry. 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.
In welcoming the publication, Dr Paul Connolly, CEO Marine Institute said: "This report gives a valuable overview of Ireland's maritime freight industry, particularly in light of our recent COVID-19 and Brexit supply chain challenges. As an island nation, we are heavily dependent on sea-based transport to link Ireland to world markets and I am delighted to see further positive indicators of the potential of this sector to contribute to wider economic growth in Ireland, and also its resilience in what was a most challenging period for business."
The year under review was one of significant change in the RoRo freight market. December 31st 2020 marked the end of the Brexit transition period and 2021 recorded 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.
2021 was also a year 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.
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. There are now six shipping companies offering thirteen 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, Minister 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: "Looking 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."
Click HERE to read full report.