Irish Shipping Volumes Increased by +6% in Q3 2018

Dublin Horse Show

The latest IMDO iShip Index[1] recorded an increase of +6% in shipping and port activity in the Republic of Ireland in Q3 2018, compared to Q3 2017. The Index reached 1,037 points, the fourth consecutive quarter in which it has exceeded the baseline of 1,000 points. This continues the trend of steady growth in the ports and shipping sector since 2009.

The Lift-on/Lift-off (LoLo) market in Ireland grew by +5% on the Index compared to Q3 2017, due to increases in both laden imports (+8%) and laden exports (+1%). As a result, the LoLo iShip Index reached its highest level since 2008, at 926 points.

LoLo laden traffic through Northern Irish ports declined by -1%. There was a +3% expansion in laden imports and a decline in laden exports of -5%. On an all-island basis, the total laden LoLo market grew by +4%, with laden imports increasing by +7%, and zero growth in laden exports.

The Roll-on/Roll-off (RoRo) freight market continued its growth trend, expanding by +4% compared to Q3 2018, reaching 1,344 points on the iShip Index. Since 2013 RoRo has grown by an average of +6% per annum. RoRo freight traffic from Ireland to the UK increased by +1% compared to Q3 2017, and exports to the EU increased by +21% for the same period. The increase in Irish RoRo exports direct to the EU is the result of greater capacity by CLdN Cobelfret SA on the Dublin – Rotterdam service since Q4 2017, and by Brittany Ferries’ new services from Cork – Santander since Q2 2018.

Northern Irish RoRo freight traffic continued its steady growth trajectory, increasing by +2% compared to the comparable quarter last year. On an all-island basis, the RoRo segments of the shipping market grew by +3%.

Bulk traffic through Irish ports, which compromises Break, Dry and Liquid Bulk, increased by +6% compared to Q3 2017. There was also an increase of +2% through Northern Irish ports, giving rise to a +5% increase in bulk traffic on an all-island basis. The combined iShip Index for the Bulk traffic segments for Irish ports reached 949 points.

Break Bulk, the smallest segment of Bulk traffic (5%), contracted by -8% in this quarter due to declines six out of the nine ports which handle Break traffic (i.e. timber, steel, machinery, etc.). On the other hand, Dry Bulk (57% of Bulk volumes) grew by +11%, with six of the ten ports handling Dry Bulk traffic (e.g. animal feed, coal, alumina) seeing increases. Finally, Liquid Bulk (38% of Bulk volumes) saw no growth in Q3 when oil transhipments through Bantry Bay are excluded. However, when these are included, Liquid Bulk declined -4%.

In Northern Ireland, Break Bulk declined -43%, Dry Bulk grew by +8%, and Liquid Bulk grew by +4%, mirroring overall trends in Ireland with the exception of Liquid Bulk.

In terms of commodities, traffic in Animal Feed grew by +44%, which can be attributed to the fodder crisis that began in Q1 2018.[2] The IMDO has recorded increases in port volumes for this commodity in both Q1 (+51%) and Q2 (+13%). This is reflected in data from the CSO[3], which show that from January – August a +25% increase in animal feed imports by value was recorded compared to 2017, from €529m to €660m. Fertiliser traffic was up +52% through Irish ports, with CSO data recording similar trends, with a +21% increase in value for the months January – August compared to the same period last year (ibid.). In terms of other select commodities, Coal declined by -29%, Alumina and Bauxite declined by -8%, and Cement saw no growth in Q3. Petroleum, as an individual commodity of Liquid Bulk increased by +2%, as a result of increases in volumes in Dublin (+14%) and Shannon Foynes (+27%), while Cork volumes declined by -10%.