Growth for Irish ports

After the record collapse of shipping volumes in 2009, the Irish Ports and Shipping sector saw a return to growth across most of the principle segments last year, according to the latest annual edition of the Irish Maritime Transport Economist, which was unveiled at an industry briefing in Cork, today (April 14th ) by the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO).

The report shows that unitised traffic on the main Roll-on/Roll-off routes to the UK recovered by 4% in 2010, with a decline in the Lift-on/Lift-off container sector easing substantially compared to the 2009 with a fall of just 3%.

The strongest volume recovery occurred in the dry bulk segments which were up 18% Part of the return to growth in this sector is attributed to strong global demand for ore and mineral products such as alumina, while domestic demand in the agricultural sector led to a rise in the imports of grains, feeds and fertilizers. Although the overall picture is positive; the main volume gains in this segment were not evenly distributed among the ports with some of the smaller regional ports still in negative territory for the year. Tanker and liquid bulk volumes were up 2%, while ferry passenger volumes also increased for the full year by 4%.

“We have seen many ports and shipping segments recover some of the heavy losses which occurred over the past two years,” said IMDO Director Mr. Glenn Murphy. “The trend in shipping data appeared to closely follow the general economic climate last year with a strong start to 2010, before wider economic concerns over the third quarter contributed to the general slow down at the year end.”

The report also highlights the continued resilient performance of export trades with estimates that export volumes on the principle routes to the UK, Asia and US were up overall by 7%. The underlying performance of multinational sectors, principally in chemical and pharmaceutical industries, led the export recovery while established indigenous Irish exporting companies, particularly in the food, drink and agri-business segments , also contributed to the strong performance. The report remarks however that imports in the principle segments linked to consumer and household demand remained subdued last year with no noticeable growth.

The report concluded that outlook for 2011 looks likely to be testing for the domestic ports and shipping sectors with less growth forecast across the majority of the shipping segments. The rise of bunker/fuel prices by 136% over the past 12 months will put further pressure on operators to increase freight rates and bunker surcharges.