Dublin Port trade recovers to close to pre-pandemic and pre-Brexit levels

Post-Brexit UK border controls depress average cargo loads on trailers and containers

Dublin Port’s trade volumes almost recovered to pre-pandemic and pre-Brexit levels in the first half of the year but Brexit has depressed average trailer and container loads, new figures show.

The State’s largest port released first-half figures showing an increase in trade volumes in the six months compared with 2021 as trade rebounded from the Covid-19 slump.

Overall volumes increased 10 per cent year on year but are still down almost 4 per cent compared with the first half of 2019, the period before the pandemic and Brexit suppressed trade.

Based on cargo units, the number of containers and trailers passing through the port increased by almost 8 per cent year on year and were just under 1 per cent below the same period in 2019.


Eamonn O’Reilly, chief executive of Dublin Port, said the post-Brexit pattern where the average cargo load per container and trailer fell by 4.2 per cent was “now an established reality”.

“It is a permanent inefficiency in logistics supply chains caused by the introduction of border controls on imports into Ireland from the UK. This is putting greater pressure on port lands as trade volumes climb back to record levels,” said Mr O’Reilly.

The port chief said that since Brexit businesses were choosing not to send goods across the UK “landbridge” between Ireland and continental Europe, while traders were choosing to source goods from alternative suppliers in continental Europe to avoid new border controls with the United Kingdom.

He attributed the decline in average cargo load per container and trailer to pressure on “groupage” loads where a haulier would carry different consignments in one container or trailer.

Pre-Brexit, this was a way for hauliers to make more money but having to file separate customs forms for every single item under the new border controls has made this too costly, he said.

“You cannot use the container or trailer as efficiently as you used to,” he said.

Speaking on the figures overall, he said the first-half trading results were the first opportunity to assess trends in port volumes after two years of disruption caused by the pandemic and Brexit.

“What we are seeing is a return of the strong volume growth which has characterised Dublin Port for decades,” said Mr O’Reilly who is leaving his role as chief executive next month.

“This is driven by population growth as confirmed in the recent census. More people means more trade and more trade means greater volumes through Dublin Port.”

The population rose by 7.6 per cent in the last six years, reaching 5.1 million people, the highest level in more than 170 years, according to this year’s census.

Ferry traffic volumes jumped significantly as Covid-19 travel restrictions were lifted. Passenger numbers more than doubled to 671,000 and tourist vehicle numbers more than trebled to 196,000.

Passenger numbers are still almost 20 per cent below where they were in the first half of 2019, while tourist vehicle numbers are 16 per cent below the pre-pandemic levels of three years ago.

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell

Simon Carswell is News Editor of The Irish Times