Unitised Traffic Report Q3 2022
In Q3 2022, the volume of RoRo traffic decline by 1% when compared to the same period in 2021. When compared to the third quarter of 2020, RoRo traffic declined by 4%.
RoRo traffic on direct EU routes declined by 2% compared to Q3 2021, while traffic on GB routes was unchanged compared to Q3 2021. More than 18 months after the end of the Brexit transition period, the shift towards direct EU RoRo routes is so far holding firm. There is yet to be any large or significant shift away from this trend.
Despite its close comparison with recent years, Q3 2022 volumes represent a below trend performance for total Irish RoRo traffic. In 2020 and 2021, with the effects of COVID-19 measures and Brexit posing a significant risk to Irish trade, Irish RoRo traffic was resilient and held constant at, or very slightly below, 2019 levels.
2022 is the first period in which the worst effects of COVID-19 and Brexit have passed, and the first half of the year showed promising signs of a return to pre-pandemic, pre-Brexit growth. Using the IMDO’s iShip index, a quarterly weighted indicator that outlines trends within Ireland’s shipping industry, the long term trend of Irish RoRo traffic predicts that 2022 should average between 300,00 - 305,000 units per quarter. In the first and second quarters of this year, 300,000 and 306,000 units were handled respectively.
Failure to surpass 300,000 units in Q3 2022 therefore represents a slight underperformance for this sector of maritime traffic. Unsurprisingly then, this is reflected in the performance of the broader Irish economy, where inflation is forecasted to reach 8% in 2022.
In the third quarter of 2022, LoLo traffic declined by 1% when compared to the same period in 2021. When compared to Q3 2020, LoLo traffic rose by 9%.
Prior to Brexit, LoLo traffic in Ireland peaked in 2019, recording 1.06m TEU’s in that year, and averaging approximately 265,000 TEUs per quarter. LoLo traffic is now averaging roughly 297,000 TEUs per quarter, and is on course to surpass 1.2m TEU’s in 2022 for the first time.
However, when considering the post-Brexit trajectory of LoLo traffic in isolation, a volume of 296,368 TEU’s does represent a slight slowdown in post-Brexit growth. The IMDO’s analysis suggests that, had LoLo traffic stayed on its post-Brexit trajectory, it would have recorded approximately 299,000 TEU’s this quarter, before surpassing 300,000 per quarter in 2023.
Overall however, Brexit has had a large and positive effect on LoLo traffic at Irish ports. The same factors that drove a surge in ROI – EU RoRo traffic also drove increases in LoLo traffic.
Unitised freight traffic at Irish ports remains strong, but some momentum from the first half of 2022 has been lost, due mainly to the severe economic headwinds evident in the domestic economy and that of the UK and Euro Area.
Despite this, Irish port traffic is exhibiting considerable resilience to hold onto current volumes in the face of these economic challenges. Inflation is forecasted to reach 8% in 2022, personal consumption has been downgraded compared to early 20221, and consumer sentiment is significantly lower than a year ago.2 All of these indicators are closely linked to the performance of the unitised freight sector, i.e. RoRo and LoLo, at Irish ports.
Elsewhere, in the RoRo passenger market, volumes were double that of Q3 2021, and are now just 10% below Q3 2019, or pre-pandemic levels. This is welcome news to operators who have faced considerable challenges over the last two years due to international travel restrictions.
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