Irish Port & Shipping Volumes Indicate Slowdown in 2nd Quarter

By MarEx 2011-08-25 17:21:31

The volume of shipping and port traffic declined during the second quarter of 2011 when compared to growth rates witnessed over the first 3 months of the year.  This is according to the latest analysis of traffic figures released today by from the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO)

The second quarter data indicates that only 1 of the 5 principal freight segments had any growth over the second quarter, while the other modes remained flat or recorded some volume decline  compared to the same period last year;

Key second quarter data:-

  • Lift-on/Lift-off (lo/lo) trades remained static at 0%.
  • Roll-on/Roll-off export traffic was down by 1%.
  • Dry bulk volumes increased by 5%,
  • Break bulk volumes were down by 6%
  • The Tanker/Liquid bulk market was down 6%.

The lift on / lift off (lo/lo) container sector remained flat over the second quarter with total volume rising by 1% for the first 6 months to 305,867 TEUs. Exports as a subset of these figures grew by 6% during the first 6 months with strong volume demand on long haul routes to overseas markets such as the USA and Asia, with less growth on Intra-European short haul trades being observed.

Container imports fell by 4% in the second quarter down 3% in total for the first 6 months of the year. This represents the 14th consecutive quarter of declining import volumes as consumption remains weak in the domestic economy. The decline in imports continues to create further challenges for this market segment as owners and operators have to import 19% more empty containers to meet export standard demands.

Roll-on/roll-off (ro/ro) traffic declined on an all-island basis by 1% in the second quarter of this year with 413,727 freight units handled which resulted in no overall growth for the first 6 months of 2011. The Ro/Ro sector is heavily weighted to traffic movement to and from the United Kingdom, our largest trading partner. The static volume is likely to have been impacted by weaker demand in the UK due to the slower than expected economic recovery being experienced there.

The ro/ro market has seen some significant structural capacity adjustments this year which has seen a major operator, that controlled 20% of the market capacity, exit the Irish market. Some of the lost vessel frequency and capacity on these routes was replaced by other domestic shipping lines. As such, despite flat volumes, most ro/ro operators are likely to have increased their overall market share during the last 6 months.

The strong volume recovery in dry bulk volumes though Irish ports for agricultural products and other core products; coal, grain and fertilizers, slowed during the second quarter with a 5% increase to 3.4 million tons. This growth compares to strong growth levels over the previous 4 quarters as the sector recovered from the heavy volume erosion suffered in 2008 & 2009. Liquid bulk volumes and importation of tanker based petroleum products, such as oil, declined by 6% in the second quarter due to weaker domestic and international transhipment demand at the main refinery facilities. The break bulk sector is the smallest of the five market segments and is primarily made up of shipments of construction related materials; this decreased by 6% for the second quarter but increased by 9% for the first 6 months for a total of 477,191 mt.

A major factor impacting on all market segments has been the steady rise of bunker fuel prices which have increased by more than $120 per mt since the start of the year.

The outlook for the remainder of the year is less optimistic than at the beginning of 2011 given the slowdown in the wider global economy. Freight forward agreements (FFA’s) for positions to the year end also indicate weaker demand on the key international shipping trade lanes and a sense of a slower market pulse beginning to emerge.

Statement issued by: Glenn Murphy, Director.