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Dublin Port reports strong growth in EU trade volumes

Dublin Port Company has again reported record growth figures for 2019 as trade with the European Union countries experienced strong growth. 

Volumes on Ro-Ro (Roll-on/roll-off) and Lo-Lo (life-on/lift off) services to Continental Europe grew by 10.7%, but UK volumes fell by 0.2%. 

Dublin Port reported growth in unitised volumes (both Ro-Ro and Lo-Lo combined) of 3.6% to a total of 1.5 million units.  

It noted that over the six years since the economic recovery began in 2013, unitised trade has grown by over 41%. 

But it said the continued strength in unitised growth was 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%.

Dublin Port said its RoRo volumes grew by 2.6% to 1.1 million units, while its Lo-Lo container volumes grew by 6.5% to 774,000 units. 

Bulk liquid volumes – mostly petroleum products – grew by 0.9% to 4.7 million tonnes driven by increasing activity in the road transport and aviation sectors.

But bulk solid commodities declined by 23.4% to 1.8 million tonnes due to a number of factors, including the fact that 2018 had been an exceptionally strong year for agri-feed imports. 

2019 also saw exports from Boliden Tara Mines ceasing for a four-month period while major construction works in Alexandra Basin were proceeding.

Dublin Port said that these works are now complete, and exports of lead and zinc ore concentrates have fully resumed.  

Meanwhile, ferry passenger volumes increased by 6.7% to 1,949,000 last year, while the number of tourist vehicles increased by 9.9% to 560,000.

Dublin Port’s cruise business grew again with 158 cruise ship arrivals, up from 150 in 2018 and growth of 16.7% in visitor numbers.  

It noted that the average size of cruise ship increased again reaching 55,648 gross tonnes in 2018, an increase of 11.1% compared to 2018.

Dublin Port’s chief executive Eamonn O’Reilly said last year’s dominant feature was the continued strong growth in the unitised modes with Ro-Ro ahead by 2.6% and Lo-Lo by 6.5%. 

But he said that behind these growth figures Dublin Port saw a marked difference between the UK and the EU-26, adding that UK volumes declined by 0.2%, while 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,” he added.

Mr O’Reilly said 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, it finalised a €300m private placement debt facility.

With the finance now in place, capital investment will continue this year 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.

“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,” Mr O’Reilly added.

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