Shipping Volumes Fall in 1st Quarter


The volume of shipping and port traffic through the Republic of Ireland declined in the first quarter of 2012. This is according to the latest figures released by the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO) at the European Shortsea Conference at the Mansion House in Dublin today (24/05/2012).

The first quarter data indicates that only one of the five principal freight segments had any growth over the first quarter while all other freight segments declined or recorded no growth compared to the same period last year.

Key Data Indicators:

Freight Segments:

- Lift-on/Lift-off (Lo/lo) trades were down -1%. 
- Roll-on/Roll-off (Ro/ro) declined by -3%.
- Dry bulk volumes was unchanged 0%,
- Tanker/Liquid bulk market was up +30%. 
- Break bulk volumes were down by -4%

Total container traffic (Lo/lo) declined by 1% during the first three months of the year. Exports a subset of these figures grew by 1% in the first quarter as weakened economic trading conditions prevailed internationally, in particular in Europe. Imports fell by 2% in the first quarter. This represents the 17th consecutive quarter of declining import volumes. As a result, this has seen shipping and logistics firms strategically importing empty containers to address the reduction of laden containers imports into Ireland in recent years. In Quarter One 2012 alone, the IMDO have calculated that 5% more empty containers were imported into Ireland to meet exporters needs.

Roll-on/roll-off (ro/ro) traffic declined in the Republic of Ireland by 3%. The majority of Ro/Ro freight from Ireland is destined for the United Kingdom. This decline in traffic is clearly reflected in the continued uncertainly in UK as their economy shrank in the first quarter, sliding into its first double dip recession since the 1970’s. A considerable amount of Ro-Ro freight is destined for supermarket multiple and FMCG sectors both domestically and cross channel. These sectors particularly in the UK have reported significant downturns in sales in 2012 so far. 

Dry bulk volumes were stagnant through Irish ports during the first three months of 2012. However, animal feed, peat moss and iron ore are significant products in this freight segment and ones which continue to perform strongly. Demand for aluminum remained strong internationally, particularly from China.

Liquid bulk volumes of tanker based petroleum products increased by 30% in the first quarter. This increase was driven by Bantry Bay which recorded a marked increase in its international trans-shipment activity at its crude oil and products facility. Domestic oil consumption remained weak and if we exclude trans-shipment storage, then volumes would have increased by just over 1%.

Break bulk volumes have continued its decline into Quarter One, by four per cent. This freight segment was extensively linked to the construction boom as products shipped in this segment include timber and steal. Break volumes passing through Irish ports have declined by 40 per cent since 2008 but this rate of decline has eased considerably since 2010. Scrap metal exports continued to increase in volume as this commodity’s price remains high into 2012.


The Irish Ports and Shipping sector is heavily influenced by events globally. As the stability of the European economy remains fragile, uncertainty for Irish consumers and businesses will inevitably persist, which will be clearly reflected in freight volumes passing through Irish ports. Exports in the short-term will continue to drive economic growth, which has been aided by favourable exchange rates in recent months. The Port of Rotterdam, which is Ireland’s main Deep-Sea connection to countries outside of Europe, is optimistic that their volumes will show a modest increase in the latter half of 2012, which is a good sign for Irish businesses exporting globally. 

Statement issued by Glenn Murphy, Director, Irish Maritime Development Office of the Marine Institute