Dublin Port records slight reduction in volumes during 2021 post-Brexit

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Trailers and containers down by 56,000 (-3.8%) to 1.4 million units

Dublin Port Company has reported trading figures for the fourth quarter of 2021 and for the year as a whole.

Following a surge in activity in Q4 2020, before Brexit border controls were introduced on 1st January 2021, overall volumes at Dublin Port declined in Q4 2021 by -10.3% to 9.1 million gross tonnes.

This decline was driven by an -11.9% reduction in the number of containers and trailers year-on-year from a pre-Brexit spike of 418,000 units in Q4 2020 to 369,000 units in Q4 2021.
For the year as a whole, overall volumes at Dublin Port fell by -5.2% to 34.9 million gross tonnes.

83% of Dublin Port’s volumes are in the Ro-Ro and Lo-Lo modes and there were contrasting outcomes in these two modes:

  • The number of Ro-Ro units fell by -9.3% or 99,000 trailers
  • This was significantly offset by an increase in Lo-Lo units of +10.2% or 43,000 containers
  • Overall unitised volumes (Ro-Ro and Lo-Lo combined) were down by -3.8% or 56,000 units
  • Trade vehicle imports increased by +10.9% during 2021 to 82,000 notwithstanding space constraints causing a number of ship arrivals to be cancelled during December, the busiest month in the year for Irish vehicle imports.
  2021 Change in the year % change  
         
Gross tonnes    34.9 million –       1,919 million –       5.2%
         
Ro-Ro    962,075 units –        98,904 units –       9.3%
Lo-Lo    466,737 units +        43,188 units +    10.2%
Unitised   1,428,812 units –        55,716 units –       3.8%
         
Trade vehicles     82,457 +                    8,084 +      10.9%

 

The full year impacts of Brexit on Dublin Port’s unitised volumes (Ro-Ro and Lo-Lo) are now clear:

  • The overall decline in the number of containers and trailers was small at just 56,000 units (‑3.8%).
  • Fewer goods are now moving in trailers in the Ro-Ro mode and more are moving in containers in the Lo-Lo mode.  Lo-Lo’s share of unitised volumes increased from 29% to 33%.
  • Fewer Ro-Ro trailers are moving driver-accompanied.  During 2021, their number declined by 90,000, contributing substantially to the overall decline in Ro-Ro volumes of 99,000.
  • The decline in Ro-Ro volumes was concentrated on routes to the GB ports of Holyhead, Liverpool and Heysham where volumes declined by 187,000 (-21%) to 703,000.
  • However, Ro-Ro volumes on direct routes to Continental Europe increased by 88,000 to 259,000.
  • As a result, where GB routes accounted for 64% of all of the 1.5 million unit loads (Ro-Ro and Lo-Lo combined) in 2020, they only accounted for 52% of the 1.4 million unit loads in 2021.


17% of Dublin Port’s volumes are in the bulk commodity modes
and these grew by +2.1% during 2021:

  • Bulk Liquid – primarily petroleum imports – grew by +1.7% to 3.9 million tonnes.
  • Bulk Solid volumes grew by +0.9% to 2.0 million tonnes.  This includes movements of animal feed, lead and zinc ore concentrates, scrap metals and petroleum coke.
  • Overall, bulk commodities increased by +2.1% to 6.0 million tonnes
  2021 Change in the year % change  
         
Bulk commodities     5,981,000 tonnes +  121,000 tonnes +      2.1%

 

Dublin Port’s passenger business recovered marginally during 2021:

  2021 Change in the year % change  
         
Ferry passengers 845,326 +                  12,510 +      1.5%

 

Although passenger numbers increased by 1.5% to 845,000 during 2021, the number travelling is still less than half of what it was pre-Covid (1.9 million in 2019).

Commenting on the 2021 figures, Dublin Port’s Chief Executive, Eamonn O’Reilly, said: “Dublin Port finished 2021 with overall volumes down on their 2020 levels by -5.2%.  The reduction in cargo throughput was accounted for by a drop of 56,000 in the number of containers and trailers to 1.4 million.  Behind this figure there was a substantial decline in unitised volumes with GB – down 214,000 units – largely offset by a strong increase in volumes with the EU of 158,000 units.

“Brexit has caused the make-up of Dublin Port’s unitised volumes to change significantly.  Ro-Ro volumes were down by 99,000 and, for the most part, this decline was accounted for by a 90,000 reduction in driver accompanied Ro-Ro.  By comparison, the number of Lo-Lo containers increased by 43,000.

“The extensive Brexit preparation work completed in 2020 paid off in 2021. There was none of the catastrophic congestion that had been projected and what disruptions there were in the early days of 2021 were quickly resolved as supply chains adapted to the new realities.  Over the course of the year, the average number of trailers called for some physical inspection on services from GB was just 2.5 per ferry.

“The risks of Brexit were comprehensively mitigated and Dublin Port’s volumes are set to increase again during 2022 driven by growth in trade on direct services with Continental Europe.

“Looking ahead, we are currently preparing our third and final Masterplan project – the 3FM Project – to provide additional infrastructure for continued future growth.  The 3FM Project includes the construction of Ireland’s largest container terminal with an annual capacity of 360,000 containers to meet Ireland’s long-term port infrastructure needs.”

Q4 2021 Trade Results

Q4 2021 Q4 2020 % change YTD 2021 YTD 2020 % change
             
Overall volumes (‘000 gross tonnes)
Imports 5,539  6,088 -9.0% 21,217  21,710 -2.3%
Exports 3,516  4,004 -12.2% 13,723  15,149 -9.4%
Total 9,055  10,092 -10.3% 34,940  36,859 -5.2%
             
Unitised trade            
Ro‑Ro units 255,063  303,761 -16.0% 962,075  1,060,979 -9.3%
Lo‑Lo units 113,504  114,736 -1.1% 466,737  423,582 10.2%
Total units 368,567  418,497 -11.9% 1,428,812  1,484,561 -3.8%
             
Lo‑Lo TEU 205,324  205,235 0.0% 842,838  757,577 11.3%
Trade Vehicles 19,653  21,535 -8.7% 82,457  74,373 10.9%
             
Bulk trade (‘000 tonnes)            
Bulk Liquid 1,071  1,041 2.8% 3,938  3,871 1.7%
Bulk Solid 520  586 -11.1% 1,973  1,956 0.9%
Break Bulk 15  12 20.6% 70  33 112.6%
Total bulk commodities 1,606  1,639 -2.0% 5,981  5,860 2.1%
             
Ferry traffic            
Passengers* 277,025  181,500 52.6% 845,326  832,816 1.5%
Tourist vehicles 85,382  45,130 89.2% 251,938  214,700 17.3%
             
Shipping activity            
Number of arrivals    1,742    1,878 -7.2%     7,253     7,282 -0.4%


* Includes HGV drivers