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Dublin Port’s trade with Europe spikes as Brexit takes toll on UK

Volumes through the country’s busiest port indicate a shift from the UK to a growing trade with the continent.

Figures from Dublin Port show volumes to Britain fell by 0.2pc last year, while volumes on services to continental Europe grew 10.7pc.

Dublin Port trade volumes hit another record in 2019.

The port, whose traffic was hit in the period by work on its docks for a major expansion project, said it expected traffic with mainland Europe to continue its strong growth.

“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,” said CEO Eamonn O’Reilly.

Overall tonnage growth for the year was just 0.4pc, due in large part to construction work on the huge Alexandra Basin development, which reduced the number of ship arrivals by 71 to 7,898. Volumes were affected when ore exports from the Tara Mine were suspended for four months due to the construction.

The traffic numbers from the port showed roll-on, roll-off shipping traffic rose 2.6pc to 1.1 million units.

Containerised shipping has now recovered to pre-crash levels and volumes grew by 6.5pc to 774,000 20-foot equivalent units, the industry standard size. “Behind these growth figures, however, we saw a marked difference between the UK and the EU-26,” said Mr O’Reilly, who noted that volumes to Britain fell by 0.2pc for roll-on, roll-off and container traffic, and that it expanded by 10.7pc for Europe.

Data from the Central Statistics Office has also shown a decline in trade with Britain, which accounts for 9pc of exports, and a rise with countries in the eurozone.

The value of exports to Britain in the first 11 months of last year fell €358m, or 3pc, to €12.45bn from the same period in 2018. By contrast, exports to the eurozone rose to €48.29bn from €45.89bn.

Exporters face another year of Brexit tension, as the UK negotiates the terms of its trade deal with the bloc, and there is the threat that it could still go for a no-deal exit on commerce.

An estimate published this week by consultancy Copenhagen Economics put the potential cost to the economy of a hard trade outcome at €18bn.

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

In the cruise sector, 158 ships arrived, up from 150 in 2018, with a 16.7pc surge in visitor numbers to 323,234 people.

The port is spending €277m on its Alexandra Basin redevelopment, which is due to be finished next year, and will boost capacity for large ships by deepening and lengthening 3km of its 7km of berths.

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