Dublin Port volumes returning to traffic figures of 2020

Return to record levels of throughput by 2023 anticipated in wake of Brexit and Covid

Traffic at Dublin Port recovered in the second quarter of the year, with volumes now within 2.1 per cent of last year's figures, Dublin Port Company said.

But activity remained almost 13 per cent behind the levels seen in 2019, as the ongoing pandemic and the impact of Brexit was felt.

Dublin Port said there was a 13.1 per cent increase in volumes to nine million gross tonnes when compared to 2020. That followed a weaker first quarter, when Brexit triggered a major decline in cargo volumes at the port, reducing them by 15.2 per cent.

The data showed imports increased by 20.3 per cent between April and June, reaching 5.4 million gross tonnes, while exports reached 3.5 million gross tonnes, an increase of 3.7 per cent.


The majority of cargo volumes going through the port during the three months were unitised trade, or roll-on/roll-off (Ro Ro), and load-on/load-off (Lo Lo). The number of trailers and containers rose 16.5 per cent to 374,000 units, with Ro Ro up 12.4 per cent to 253,000 units and Lo Lo growing 26.2 per cent to 121,000 units.

That brought unitised volumes to 692,000 units for the first half of the year, an increase of 1.6 per cent on 2020 figures. Unitised trade was 7.4 per cent lower in the first six months of the year than it was two years ago.

Passenger numbers

New vehicle imports more than doubled in the second quarter, reaching 22,000 units, while bulk liquid imports such as petroleum products increased by more than 34 per cent.

Passenger and tourist volumes on ferries also showed some signs of recovery, with passenger numbers including HGV drivers up by 41 per cent to 125,000 and tourist vehicles up by 26 per cent to 30,000 in the quarter.

Dublin Port chief executive Eamonn O’Reilly said the negative impact of the weakened start to the year was being reduced.

“The effects of Brexit on the pattern of trade through Dublin Port are now becoming clearer with very strong growth of 40 per cent on Ro-Ro and Lo-Lo services to continental European ports compared to a decline of 19 per cent on services with ports in Great Britain. As a result, our unitised volumes are now split 50/50 between GB ports and ports in continental Europe. Before Brexit, GB ports accounted for almost two-thirds,” he said.

“While volumes on services from Holyhead are some way behind where they were last year, there are clear signs that the landbridge is being re-established and we anticipate the steady recovery we are seeing in GB Ro-Ro volumes to continue.”

Border inspection

He said inspections on imports from Britain are operating efficiently, with an average of three trailers being called for physical inspection on each ferry.

However, higher growth on direct services to continental Europe has meant the proportion of unitised loads that are driver-accompanied have dropped to 17 per cent in the first half of the year. Port capacity is also under pressure from the loss of 14.6 hectares for border inspection facilities.

Dublin Port Company is undertaking three major infrastructural projects as part of its Project 2040 plan, which will double the existing port’s capacity to 77 million tonnes a year.

Works are continuing to complete a Ro-Ro freight terminal at the port, which is due to come into operation in the first half of next year.

"With long-term growth trends beginning to re-emerge, we anticipate a return to record levels of throughput by 2023," Mr O'Reilly said. "The long-term planning to provide additional port capacity for future growth never stops and we have recently commenced pre-application consultation with An Bord Pleanála for the 3FM Project, the third and final masterplan project required to bring Dublin Port to its ultimate capacity by 2040. We aim to lodge a planning application for this project in 2023."

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien

Ciara O'Brien is an Irish Times business and technology journalist