The Covid-19 pandemic and its accompanying economic restrictions, both in Ireland and across the world, have severely impacted upon the Irish shipping market in Q2 2020. The IMDO’s iShip index recorded a 12% decline in tonnage through Irish ports when compared to the same quarter in 2019. This is the largest decline in the index since Q3 2009.
Across the five cargo modes, the RoRo market recorded the steepest volume declines. Proportionately, it contributed most to the 12% decline in total tonnage. LoLo also experienced its largest quarterly decline in over a decade. When combined, this is the lowest volume of unitised trade (RoRo & LoLo) recorded on the iShip index since midway through 2009.
A number of clear trends also emerged within the unitised trade market throughout this pandemic period. Firstly, smaller, regional ports made outsized contributions to the quarterly decline in RoRo traffic, relative to their market shares. Larger ports, including Dublin and Belfast, bore the greatest volume declines, but proportionally, regional ports have fared worse from the pandemic period. Large ports were more readily able to adapt to the change in market conditions, resulting in more resilient RoRo volumes. Secondly, unaccompanied RoRo traffic rapidly recovered from the strictest period of pandemic restrictions in April and May. By June, unaccompanied volumes were outperforming 2019 levels. This mode emerged as a more workable solution to the socially distant requirements necessary to combat the Covid-19 pandemic. Lastly, significant resilience was evident in the Irish LoLo market to reach 250,000 TEUs despite the widespread economic restrictions. As a result, TEU volumes this quarter were 6% higher than the average Q2 volume between 2014 and 2019.
The disruption in the maritime passenger market was more pronounced than that recorded anywhere else in the Irish shipping market. Similar to the aviation sector, the market for maritime passengers experienced a collapse in market activity in Q2, with volumes declining between 90% and 95% on certain routes. Roughly 70,000 tourist passengers passed through Irish ports in Q2 2020, compared to just over 700,000 in 2019.
Among the three bulk markets (Dry, Liquid & Break), the break bulk market experienced the greatest level of disruption caused by the Covid-19 pandemic. The restrictions placed upon domestic construction activity, which drives volumes in the break bulk market, led to a decline of 24% in this market segment in Q2. Commodities such as alumina, timber and cement all declined significantly this quarter. Volumes in the liquid bulk market were also heavily impacted, as demand for petroleum fuels for aviation and domestic road transport fuels declined significantly. Overall, liquid bulk volumes declined by 10% in Q2 2020.
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The Quarterly Reports act as a summary of Irish shipping activity over the past quarter. They are typically released a little over a month after a quarter finishes. Once the data is collected and our indices are updated, the percentage change between the current year and the previous year is calculated, and these trends are drafted and analysed.
There are five different categories that we include in our statistical analysis:
- Lift On/Lift Off (Lo/Lo)
- Roll On/Roll Off (Ro/Ro)
- Liquid Bulk
- Dry Bulk
- Break Bulk
Typically, the Lo/Lo figures exclude unladen tonnage and the liquid bulk figures are broken down into two categories; figures that include transhipments and figures that exclude transhipments. These figures are used to inform the shipping, maritime and ports industries and also to assist the Department of Transport, Tourism and Sport in decision making on government policy. The figures are also used in the Irish Maritime Development Office's annual publication, the Irish Maritime Transport Economist.
iShip Index: The iShip index is a volume index for all freight traffic moved to and from the Republic of Ireland. This does not include passengers and transhipment activity. More information on the iShip index can be accessed here. For more information visit the three main cargo sub-sections of the IMDO website.