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Dublin Port sees slight increase in 2019

The latest figures show a growth in unitised volumes (Ro-Ro and Lo-Lo combined) of +3.6% to 1.5 million units.  Over the six years since the economic recovery began in 2013, unitised trade has grown by +41.3%.

The continued strength in unitised growth was, however, offset by a large one-off decline in Bulk Solid commodities and, as a result, overall tonnage growth for the year was just +0.4%.

Growth in unitised trade during 2019 

Looking at the 2019 trade figures in detail, containers and freight trailers accounted for 83% of all cargo and both the Ro-Ro and Lo-Lo sectors grew strongly:

  • Ro-Ro grew by +2.6% in 2019 to 1.1m Ro-Ro units (1,059,103)
  • Lo-Lo container volumes grew by +6.5% to 774,000 TEU and have now, 12 years later, finally surpassed the pre-recession level of 2007

Imports of new trade vehicles through Dublin Port decreased by -4.4% to 99,000 during 2019.

Bulk liquid volumes, comprising mostly petroleum products, grew by 0.9% to 4.7m tonnes driven by increasing activity in the road transport and aviation sectors.  Petroleum imports through Dublin Port are now 14.4% higher than they were in 2007.

Bulk solid commodities declined by 23.4% to 1.8m tonnes due, firstly, to 2018 having been an exceptionally strong year for agri-feed imports and, secondly, because of the cessation of exports from Boliden Tara Mines for a four-month period while major construction works in Alexandra Basin were proceeding.  These works are now complete, and exports of lead and zinc ore concentrates have fully resumed. These two factors also reduced the number of ship arrivals in 2019 by 71 down to 7,898.

Ferry passenger volumes increased by +6.7% to 1,949,000.  Similarly, the number of tourist vehicles increased by 9.9 % to 560,000.

Dublin Port’s cruise business grew again with 158 cruise ship arrivals (compared to 150 in 2018) and growth of +16.7% in visitor numbers.  The average size of cruise ship increased yet again reaching 55,648 gross tonnes in 2018, an increase of +11.1% compared to the previous year.

Commenting on the results, Dublin Port’s Chief Executive, Eamonn O’Reilly, said:

“The dominant feature of 2019 was the continued strong growth in the unitised modes with Ro-Ro ahead by 2.6% and Lo-Lo by 6.5%.  Behind these growth figures, however, we saw a marked difference between the UK and the EU-26. Where GB volumes declined by 0.2%, volumes on Ro-Ro and Lo-Lo services to Continental Europe grew very strongly by 10.7%.  

The effect of the deployment in recent years of new ships on direct routes to Continental Europe by shipping lines such as Irish Ferries and CLdN is clear to be seen and we expect to see this trend continue as trading patterns adapt post Brexit. 

“While overall tonnage growth was low at 0.4%, there were one-off factors behind the decline in Bulk Solid volumes in 2019 which will not be repeated in 2020.

“The continued large growth in unitised volumes underpins the need for Dublin Port Company to continue the major €1 billion investment programme from now to 2029.  In December, we finalised a €300m private placement debt facility and, with the finance now in place, capital investment will continue apace during 2020 on the Alexandra Basin Redevelopment Project, at Dublin Inland Port and on the redevelopment of the port’s road network to provide the capacity needed as the port grows to maximum capacity utilisation by 2040.

“During 2019, we submitted the Masterplan’s second strategic infrastructure development project, the MP2 Project, to An Bord Pleanála and hope to get a decision in the coming months. The MP2 Project is designed to greatly increase Dublin Port’s capacity for both Ro-Ro and Lo-Lo and to do this with no expansion into Dublin Bay. This is a key commitment in our Masterplan. 

“While the final impacts from Brexit remain unknown, we have completed a series of projects during 2019 in conjunction with the OPW to provide the border infrastructure needed for whatever level of checks are ultimately required.”

Trade statistics 2019 2019 2018 Change
Overall volumes (‘000 gross tonnes)
Imports   22,858   22,742 0.5%
Exports   15,280   15,259 0.1%
Total   38,138    38,001  0.4%
Unitised trade
Ro-Ro units 1,059,103 1,031,897 2.6%
Lo-Lo units 432,510 407,463 6.1%
Total units 1,491,613  1,439,360  3.6%
Lo-Lo TEU 774,000 726,928 6.5%
New trade vehicles 98,897 103,443 -4.4%
Bulk trades (‘000 tonnes)
Bulk Liquid   4,662   4,622 0.9%
Bulk Solid   1,820   2,375 -23.4%
Break Bulk   17   24 -27.9%
Tourist traffic
Ferry passengers 1,949,229 1,827,674 6.7%
Ferry tourist vehicles 559,506 508,960 9.9%
Cruise calls 158 150 5.3%
Cruise visitors (passengers and crew) 323,234 276,927 16.7%
Shipping activity
Number of arrivals   7,898    7,969  -0.9%

Trends in unitised volumes 2013 to 2019
Ro-Ro Lo-Lo Total
2013 0.76m 0.29m 1.06m
2014 0.82m 0.32m 1.14m
2015 0.88m 0.35m 1.22m
2016 0.94m 0.37m 1.32m
2017 0.99m 0.39m 1.39m
2018 1.03m 0.41m 1.44m
2019 1.06m 0.43m 1.49m
2013 to 2019 39.0% 47.4% 41.3%

Seven year growth trends in
total tonnes
2013 to 2019
2013 + 3.0%
2014 + 6.9%
2015* + 6.4%
2016* + 6.4%
2017* + 4.3%
2018* + 4.3%
2019* + 0.4%
2013 to 2019 +36.1%
* Record years

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