Quarterly Statistics

Quarterly Statistics

Unitised Traffic Report Q4 2023

RoRo traffic in Republic of Ireland (ROI) ports declined by 2% in the fourth quarter of 2023, to 289,971 units. When compared to recent years, this represents a subdued performance, as it is the first time in five years that RoRo traffic has failed to surpass 290,000 units in the fourth quarter. In the intervening years (2018 – 2022), fourth quarter RoRo volumes averaged 305,000 units. In Northern Ireland, RoRo volumes grew by 4%, to 222,740 units. On the island of Ireland, RoRo traffic amounted to 512,711 units, or 1% higher than Q4 2022. 

The 2% decline in ROI RoRo traffic in Q4 2023 was driven primarily by ROI – GB routes. One of the factors behind this decline was the ending of the P&O service between Dublin and Liverpool, which was announced in August 2023. The service wound down in the final months of the year, meaning comparisons between Dublin – GB traffic in Q4 2023 and 2022 were affected. In December 2023, it was announced that Stena Line will enter this market by adding a service between Dublin and Liverpool that will begin in February 20241. The announcement is reflective of two characteristics of the Irish RoRo market. Firstly, the ability for shipping companies to respond quickly and add capacity at relatively short notice, and secondly, the resilience of demand for ROI – GB services, despite post-Brexit declines. 

At port level, volumes were mixed. Dublin Port handled 236,571 units, a decline of 5% versus Q4 2022. In Rosslare Europort however, RoRo volumes grew by 12%. At 51,714 units, this is the highest Q4 volume for Rosslare recorded by the IMDO. As mentioned in previous IMDO reporting in 2023, Rosslare RoRo traffic has benefitted from a shift in demand towards direct (ROI – EU) routes following the end of the Brexit transition period. In 2023, the increase in RoRo traffic at Rosslare was driven by an announcement in late 2022 that a Cork-Zeebrugge service operated by Grimaldi would move to Rosslare Europort. Finnlines, a Finnish shipping company that is part of the Grimaldi Group, now operates the service from Rosslare. In February 2023, Finnlines announced that a second vessel will be added to this route from Rosslare. 

In the LoLo market, traffic at ROI ports rose by 5% in Q4 2023, to 278,850 TEU’s. In Northern Ireland, volumes grew by 4% through Belfast, and for the island of Ireland, TEU volumes grew by 5%.

The 5% growth recorded in LoLo traffic in Q4 is a welcome development, as it brings to an end four consecutive quarters of steep annual declines, during which time LoLo traffic declined by an average of 8% per quarter. However, the volumes handled this quarter at ROI ports still represent an underperformance. Throughout 2021 and 2022, LoLo volumes averaged above 290,000 TEU’s per quarter. 

Overall, unitised (container) volumes, which encompasses both RoRo and LoLo markets, were below trend in Q4 2023, and have stagnated throughout the year. This is not surprising, given the difficult economic environment within which Irish importers and exporters have traded in recent years. Sharp increases in inflation, rising interest rates, and sluggish global growth have suppressed unitised traffic, beginning in the latter half of 2022. However, unitised traffic has also avoided sharp declines, holding onto much of the gains made during the COVID-19 related surge in trade. When the recent challenges are considered, the theme of unitised traffic at ports on the island of Ireland instead becomes one of resilience in 2023.

Click here for a copy of the full Q4 2023 report