Shipping Data Indicates Signs of Traffic Recovery

The latest analysis of 2009 shipping traffic data published by the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) indicates that the rate of decline of shipping on the island of Ireland eased during the 1st half of 2009. However the overall volume of traffic handled at ports on the island continued to decline over the first 6 months of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008. 

Following a peak in traffic volumes in all shipping sectors through Irish ports during 2007 a steady decline took place with significant volume corrections occurring in the market in line with the general downturn in both the domestic and global economies. IMDO’s latest data indicates that between January and March this year, 4 of the 5 key shipping market segments have recorded their lowest levels of volume demand for the last 30 months. Since March 09 the majority of sectors, with the exception of dry bulk, have seen small positive monthly increases in volumes shipped. In spite of this recent recovery, shipping volumes remain significantly depressed compared to 2007 peak levels.

1st half 2009 lift-on/lift-off (lo/lo) traffic fell 24% on the same period in 2008, with a total of 525,874 TEU handled at all Irish and Northern Irish ports over the 6 month period.  Underlying weakness in consumer demand in the ROI contributed to a 30% decline in laden imports of container traffic (in particular from Asia) while, despite difficult external market conditions, Irish export laden traffic declined by only -11% over the same period. Lo/Lo container volumes increased by 6% between May to June, with the largest growth being recorded via Northern Irish shipping corridors.

Roll-on/Roll-off (ro/ro) Ferry traffic, which is traditionally heavily weighted in traffic movement to the UK and Continent, fell 13% when measured on an all island basis in the first half of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008.  753,845 freight units were handled at all Irish ports compared to 869,146 for the 1st half of 2008 . Latest data indicates that the volume of traffic bottomed out in February this year with 117,600 units being shipped. Since this period volumes have increased slowly with a 4% month on month increase recorded between May to June. Ro/Ro traffic on the southern continental corridor increased by 48% for the 1st 6 months from 11,610 to 17,164 units.

Bulk traffic through ROI ports fell 21%, from 16,567,909 tonnes to 13,050,405 tonnes in the first half of 2009. The dry bulk market is the only individual market which has not seen any sign of bottoming of volumes as depressed global markets for ores and agri products continue to dampen demand. Dry bulk traffic throughput fell by 35% and break bulk traffic dropped by 40% to 5,358,421 tonnes and 893,776 tonnes respectively. The volume of liquid bulk traffic through ROI ports remained largely unchanged with a small decrease of 1% in the first 6 months of 2009. 

Glenn Murphy

Director - Irish Maritime Development Office

  • TEU= Twenty Foot Equivalent Units.
  • Ro/Ro = Roll-on/Roll-off container units
  • Lo/Lo = Load-on/Load-off container units
Notes to Editor
  • Ro/ro services operate on the main corridors between Ireland and the UK both from Northern Ireland and Southern Ireland and to the continent from Southern Ireland. Ireland has three main corridors; Northern, Central and Southern.

    Lo/lo services from Ireland are intra-European services that are both Shortsea and feeder in nature.  Some services are purely Shortsea  i.e. only provide a service for boxes in the European market, other services are purely feeder in nature i.e. serve ports and provide a schedule that co-ordinates with deepsea vessels from a port in Europe destined for the Far East or USA.  Some lo/lo services cater for both the Shortsea and feeder market.

    Bulk traffic is made up of liquid, dry and breakbulk cargoes.  Liquid Bulk primarily consists of petroleum and petroleum products Dry Bulk is primarily ores, aggregates and agri-products.

    Breakbulk consists of out of gauge cargo such as project cargo, timber, construction material, scrap metal and other such general cargo