Irish Shipping Volumes Up During 1st Quarter of 2013
Irish shipping and port activity rose by 2% in the first quarter of 2013 when compared to the corresponding period of 2012, according to the latest quarterly iShip Index published by the Irish Maritime Development Office (IMDO). The upturn in volumes is as a result of unprecedented levels of imported animal feed which otherwise masked a continued downturn in key container traffic through Irish Ports. The latest analysis indicates that two of the five principal freight segments grew in the first quarter of 2013.
The dry bulk sector has been the strongest performing freight segment over the last quarter, growing by 10% to 4.2 million tonnes. Dry bulk shipments, typically grain, agricultural products and aggregates, make up the largest volume weighting of the iShip Index. Irish ports have seen record levels of animal feed passing through their quays in recent months as farmers struggle with unseasonably poor weather conditions. Animal feed imports increased by 80% compared to the same quarter last year, continuing the double-digit surge in demand for these commodities since last July. We also noted a 13% increase in coal shipments during Quarter 1 that we again attribute to poor prevailing weather conditions.
Container traffic (lift on/lift off) fell by 6% to 140,681 units, reaching its lowest level for over a decade. This sector is a key distribution channel for Irish exports to long-haul markets, including Asia and the US, as well as Europe. Exports, as a subset of this total volume fell by 8%, the largest quarterly fall since Q3 2009, representing four consecutive quarterly declines in container export volumes. This is primarily due to weaker conditions in key global markets coupled with slower growth across the Eurozone impacting on demand. Our data initially identified a slowdown in export growth starting to emerge in Q3 2011. Imports of container based commodities into Ireland also fell by 5% in the 1st quarter as weaker industrial and consumer sentiment appeared to prevail. This is the 21st consecutive quarterly decline in import traffic with little indication of any immediate recovery during 2013.
Roll on/roll off trailer volumes increased by 1% to 204,708 units. The rise in this sector was helped by a stronger performance in direct continental services (up 19%). Traffic to and from Great Britain, our largest trading partner, fell 2% as demand conditions in the UK remained largely subdued. The latest economic data for the UK, however, suggests some signs of a recovery which may translate into improved market conditions over the latter half of the year.
Elsewhere imports of petroleum based commodities in tanker vessels, declined by 1% to 2.53 million tonnes. Break bulk, which is largely weighted towards imports of construction related commodities, showed no signs of improvement.
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